“In a good year the flu vaccine is 70 percent successful,” Blereau said.
However, the flu shot takes about two weeks to become effective against the flu, he said.
“The vast majority of cases have been type A, which is usually more serious and a worse illness than type B,” he explained. “The typical case (of the flu) lasts about five days.”
“It is not too late to get the flu vaccine right now,” Blereau said.
Dr. Oleitha Wilson-Ruffin of the Pediatric Clinic in Morgan City said she has seen about as many cases as any other flu season except she started seeing cases of the flu “maybe a little earlier this year.”
Teche Regional Medical Center has had a few patients admitted for the flu, said Sabrina Roy, marketing director. “Most people, right now, are going to their physicians (for the flu),” she said.
Pharmacists at Walgreens on Brashear Avenue in Morgan City have given about 650 flu shots and pharmacists at Rite Aid in Bayou Vista have given about 330 flu shots so far this flu season.
Currently, the state of Louisiana is seeing “low-activity levels” of the flu, said Dr. Frank Welch of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals Immunization Program. It is still “so early” in the flu season, he said.
We typically don’t start to see an uptick of the flu until December,” he said. “It (the flu season) really gets going in January and February.”
St. Mary Parish’s flu activity rating is currently medium-low, which is typical across the state, Welch said.
People who have certain medical conditions including asthma, diabetes and chronic lung disease as well as pregnant women and people 65 years old and older are at high risk of developing serious complications such as pneumonia, according to the Centers for Disease Control website.
The flu vaccine contains three different viruses, Blereau said. “When you get the flu you usually will be infected by only one virus. Therefore you will be susceptible to getting one of the other viruses in the future. The vaccine will help protect you from another case of the flu later this season should one of the other viruses begin to circulate,” Blereau said.
Both Blereau and Wilson-Ruffin encourage people who get the flu to isolate themselves from others.
“You should do common sense things, such as stay away from crowds, school, and work, especially young children and the elderly, and don’t visit newborns (in the hospital),” Blereau said.
About 800 people die each year from the flu in Louisiana, Blereau said.
“Because of the differing climate cycles in the northern and southern hemispheres, the flu is constantly circulating throughout the world,” Welch said. Generally, people should probably not wait any later than March in Louisiana to get a flu shot though, he said.
Welch does not discourage people from getting flu shots at any time. “It’s never too late (to get a flu shot), but don’t put it off.”