Last Modified: Tuesday, December 11, 2012 8:01 PM
With flu season off to its earliest start in almost a decade and Louisiana one of five Southern states experiencing higher-than-usual flu activity, health officials are again reminding residents to guard themselves against the illness.
The flu vaccine is recommended for everyone 6 months and older, said Ken Pastorick of the state Department of Health and Hospitals.
Children 6-23 months old, as well as adults 65 and older, are considered at a higher risk to get the flu, as are those with chronic medical conditions, Pastorick said.
Incidents of the flu usually begin increasing after Christmas, and flu season usually peaks around February, but it is increasing earlier this year, he said.
The good news is that “the CDC is reporting that the flu vaccine for this year is proving to be pretty effective prevention against the strains of the virus that are circulating,” said Dr. B.J. Foche, regional administrator of the Office of Public Health.
Twenty-eight percent of school-age children get the flu each year, and the illness accounts for 63 missed school days each year for every 100 schoolchildren, Pastorick said.
He said that last year 56.6 percent of children between 6 months and 17 years old received the flu shot in Louisiana — above the national average of 51 percent.
“Whether flu season starts early, on time or not, the most important thing is for folks to get their flu shot,” Foch said. “It decreases your chance of, first of all, getting the flu, then, second of all, winding up in the hospital if you’re one of the high-risk groups.”