Cold and flu season off to fast start

By By Johnathan Manning / American Press

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.”