A season of sneezing

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 4, 2014

By Monique Roth

LAPLACE – Flu season is in full swing in south Louisiana, and residents of the River Parishes are trying their hardest to not get bitten by the undesirable bug.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website reports that while the timing of flu season is very unpredictable and can vary from season to season, flu activity most commonly peaks in the U.S. in January or February. The CDC notes that Louisiana is one of five states that have reported the highest level of seasonal influenza this year.

The main strain of flu circulating in the U.S. this year is the H1N1 virus, the same one that caused the swine flu pandemic of 2009-2010.

Dr. Chris Swearingen, medical director of Riverside Urgent Care in LaPlace, said the center has been seeing five to 10 people a day with flu-related cases. He urges residents to seek medical attention immediately if they aren’t feeling well.

“The most important thing is that if you think you’ve got the flu, come in in the first day or two,” Swearingen said.

He said that you can curb flu misery to just a few days if you can start medication sooner than later.

Swearingen also urges that it is never too late to get a flu vaccination. The vaccine offers full immunity after two weeks, and he said a nasal flu mist vaccine is also available in addition to the flu shot. Swearingen estimates that Riverside Urgent Care disperses about 20 mists a year and several hundred of the vaccines in shot form.

CDC has launched a “Take 3” campaign detailing three actions you can take to protect yourself from the flu.

First, CDC recommends that you take time to get a flu vaccine. Flu shots and mists can be found in many locations around the River Parishes. Visit flu.gov for a comprehensive list of locations near you that are offering the vaccine.

Second, you should take everyday preventive actions to stop the spread of germs. If you are sick with flu-like illness, CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities.

To stop the spread of germs, make it a habit to cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and immediately throw the tissue away. Also be sure to wash your hands often with soap and water and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth because germs spread this way. Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu.

Lastly, it is recommended that you take all flu antiviral drugs if your doctor prescribes them.

Antiviral drugs can make illness milder and shorten the time you are sick. They may also prevent serious flu complications.