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Louisiana sees slight decrease in flu illness

Last Modified: Friday, January 18, 2013 9:14 PM

By John Guidroz / American Press

Louisiana saw a slight drop in the percentage of samples that tested positive for influenza last week, but one local health official said the virus isn’t going away anytime soon.

“We are by no means out of the woods,” Bridget Boudreaux, infection preventionist at Lake Charles Memorial Hospital, said Friday. “We’re looking at a very prominent flu season, and people should expect to see it for more weeks to come.”

About 30 percent, or 3,638, of the 12,360 samples tested for influenza from Jan. 6 through Jan. 12 were positive, according to the state Department of Health and Hospitals Influenza Surveillance Report. This is less than the 32 percent rate found the week before.

Region 5, which includes several Southwest Louisiana parishes, was listed in the “medium-to-high” category for “influenza-like illness,” she said. That means 5 percent to 10 percent of the population in the region has experienced flulike symptoms over the last four weeks.

“This is not necessarily an indication of positive flu samples because not everybody has access to rapid testing,” Boudreaux said.

Four other regions in the state have more than 10 percent of the population experiencing flulike symptoms within the last month, the report said. Nearly every state, including Louisiana, is experiencing widespread flu activity.

Boudreaux said a majority of the positive samples were the influenza A, or H3N2-type, virus. Symptoms include a “rapid onset of fever” and upper respiratory symptoms within the first 24 hours of getting the virus, she said.

People can still take steps to protect themselves from the flu, including getting a flu shot, Boudreaux said. She said those who have flulike symptoms should avoid contact with others so the virus does not spread. People should continue to wash their hands regularly, get plenty of rest and eat a healthy diet.

Online: http://new.dhh.louisiana.gov.

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