Last Modified: Tuesday, January 08, 2013 7:11 PM
If you think it’s bad now, the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said late last week that the peak of the worst flu outbreaks may soon be upon us.
The timing of the flu season varies from year to year, most commonly peaking in January or February and continuing until May, the CDC said.
The group’s influenza statistics for the final two weeks of 2012 show that between the dates of Dec. 16-22, 6,234 Calcasieu residents with influenza-like symptoms were seen by a health professionals in Calcasieu Parish, with 1,846 or 29.6 percent of those people testing positively for influenza. Just one week later, Dec. 23 through 29, 9,363 people displayed flu-like symptoms, with 2,961 or 31.6 percent of them testing positively for influenza, making a 50 percent increase of suspected cases in one week.
Bridget Boudreaux said that this year’s flu season has been the most active she has ever seen during her three-year tenure as infection control manager for Lake Charles Memorial Hospital.
“It seems like everyone you’re talking to these days either has the flu or knows someone who does, and as long as I’ve held this position I’ve never seen this much of it going around,” she said.
“We typically don’t see an increase in flu numbers until after Christmas and New Year’s, but this year, we started getting increased reports around the middle of November,” she said. “We didn’t have much of a winter or a flu season last year, but these viruses mutate and you never know what you’ll see each year. I actually think that there tends to be a lot of under reporting of the flu in rural areas and with people who stay home and don’t see a doctor, so there could be a whole lot more out there than is actually being reported.”
Boudreaux said that though the CDC’s statistics don’t directly report it, they do show that, other than influenza, many people in the area are suffering from other seasonal illnesses, namely, the common cold.
“The reports show that along with the actual positive reports of influenza, that patients being seen with cold-like symptoms including fever, chills and upper respiratory issues are also on the rise,” she said.
It is not uncommon for people who have received a flu shot this year to still contract the illness, Boudreaux said, although it still stands as the best form of defense against the virus.
“Vaccines are manufactured based on the previous flu season and changes each year based off the previous year’s reported illnesses. Viruses mutate each year and just because we’ve vaccinated this year on what was most prevalent last year, doesn’t mean those viruses haven’t switched to a different strain that hasn’t been included in the vaccine — we’re not expecting that to happen this year but there’s always the potential,” she said.
Meanwhile, many residents are flocking to local stores and pharmacies for relief.
“We’ve had a lot of people in here with flu like symptoms — the headache, the body aches and chills. It’s mostly been people over 25 buying the herbal remedies we sell. In fact, there’s been so many people that most of the employees here have gotten sick too,” said Natasha Whaley, clerk at Boudreaux’s New Drug Store.
Children have also been getting sick as well.
“We’ve had a significant increase in the number of students getting the flu. In fact we’ve had a number of students (who got) flu vaccines getting the flu,” said Children’s Clinic of Southwest Louisiana Administrator Chuck Self. “It’s one of those things that is unpredictable one year to the next.”
• Staff Writer Nichole Osinski contributed to this report.