NEW ORLEANS - Louisiana is one of at least 46 states currently seeing widespread cases of the flu. People in New Orleans who had it say they've never felt worse.
There are different ways you can help protect yourself against the flu like washing your hands, covering your mouth when you cough and sneeze, but health officials say your best bet is to get vaccinated.
Ask people if they've gotten their flu shot, and answers are mixed.
"I have not gotten my flu shot," said Bobby Brown.
"Yes, I get mine every year," said Kathy Steve.
"The pediatrician told me they have several different strains going around and it's very bad," said Sherry Rivet. "Yes, I need to get it."
Health officials though, especially in Louisiana, are saying this year's flu is no joke and the time is now to get protected.
"It's been very busy, we've been filling prescriptions a lot earlier than we're used to," said NOLA Discount Pharmacy Pharmacist, Michele Vaderbrook. "It's really bad this year."
"Specifically, this season in Louisiana it's been rough," said Assistant Tulane Professor of Infectious Diseases, Nicholas Van Sickels.
Van Sickels says this is when flu season typically peaks. However, an influx of patients started seeking help weeks ago. One of the problems is the strength of the H3N2 strain.
"It's a little more aggressive and we're seeing more of it, it's spreading more easily," said Van Sickels. "It can be very dangerous."
The Louisiana Department of Health says already about 10 percent of Louisiana's population has been treated for flu-like symptoms. That includes: severe fever, weakness, and loss of appetite.
Victims of the flu say it's debillitating. Like Darren Bossier, who says after experiencing it once 18 years ago, he's made it a point to get vaccinated every year since.
"It was so bad I was in bed for about ten days," he said. "No sleep, aches, pains, it's the most miserable thing I've ever dealt with."
Doctors are stressing others do the same. Saying it's about 35 percent effective in covering the three different strains being reported in Louisiana.
"That's my message. Get the flu vaccine it's not too late," Van Sickels said. "It's worth it to you, your family, your community to get the vaccine, that is hands down the best thing I can say."
TamiFlu is also in high demand right now. If you can get your hands on it, it's important you take it as soon as you can because that way it's more effective.
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