By: Stacy Hall, LDH Immunization Program Director & Frank J. Welch MD, MSPH – Medical Director OPH-BCP
Louisiana has had an intense flu season, with two strains of the flu, B/Victoria and A(H1N1) being responsible for most reported illnesses in the U.S. In early August, we first started seeing cases of the B/Victoria strain. It was this strain that caused Louisiana to have widespread flu activity for most of the flu season. Now, we are seeing less of that strain, but more of the A (H1N1) strain. This is the case in throughout the U.S. as well as in Louisiana. Therefore, we’re worried that Louisiana may experience another influenza peak.
This season’s vaccine contains these two major circulating strains, so getting vaccinated for the flu offers the best protection. Getting vaccinated reduces the severity of illness and complications. This means there’s less chance a person with flu would be hospitalized, or if hospitalized less chance a person would go to the ICU.
The vaccine also protects those around you, including young children and older adults, who are at higher risk of developing severe flu illness or even death.
Vaccines are recommended for everyone 6 months and older, except those with a medical reason not to be vaccinated. Pregnant women should be vaccinated to protect themselves and their babies. Family and friends should be vaccinated to protect newborn babies.
Vaccines are available at any parish health unit throughout flu season at no cost to the patient. Local pharmacies, clinics, doctors’ offices and federally qualified (community) health centers also will offer flu shots throughout the season. Check FighttheFlu for a flu shot provider near you.
This season's flu vaccine offers protection against 2 A and 2 B strains of influenza virus. Early data suggests the vaccine has been a very good match with the current A (H1N1). However, it has not been as effective against the B/Victoria strain. Even if the B strain is not well matched this year, it still offers some protection, especially from more serious illness.
The Louisiana Department of Health offers these reminders to help keep people from spreading the flu:
Flu shot facts
A flu vaccine is the first and best way to reduce your chances of getting the flu and spreading it to others. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Louisiana Department of Health recommend a yearly flu shot for everyone over 6 months of age who does not have a complicating condition, such as a prior allergic reaction to the flu shot.