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Flu cases now widespread in Louisiana

There's been a significant increase in flu-like cases reported in the state.

NEW ORLEANS — Doctors are seeing cases of the flu starting to increase significantly over the last few weeks.

Dr. Denise Goodfellow Kerut with Children's Pediatrics in River Ridge is one medical professional who has taken notice.

"We're seeing a whole lot of patients come in with the flu," Goodfellow Kerut said. "As we do every winter, but we're seeing a lot of flu this year."

The latest CDC report shows the number of Influenza tests reported by clinical labs nearly tripled between Jan. 27 and Feb. 2. 

"Basically it's being seen everywhere," said Dr. Fred Lopez with LSU Health Infectious Diseases. "When it's widespread throughout the state, they're seeing increase levels of flu-like illnesses."

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Doctors say this year's H1N1 strain is serious but so far fewer cases have been reported when compared to last year's H3N2 strain. It's also been a good match to this year's flu shot so far.

"In other words, what's being included in the vaccine is being reported from the CDC and Public Health Department as predominant strains causing flu illnesses this year," said Lopez.

However, there's one thing the latest report shows that caught doctors' attention: A 35 percent increase in H3N2 cases recently in Southeastern Louisiana. 

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"We're starting to see flu levels of the same virus strain from last year and we'll have to wait and see what the significance of that might be," Lopez said.

More details will be known Friday when the next CDC update comes out. While medical staff keep an eye on that, they're also curious to see how the rest of the season progresses.

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"When we peak is not exactly clear," said Lopez. "It's always difficult to predict what a typical flu season is going to look like, but it does look like we're seeing increasing reports of flu-like activity.

"Everybody is susceptible to it," said Goodfellow Kerut. "There are many strains so even if you've had the flu once, you can get it again."

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These doctors encourage people and want them to know it's not too late to get vaccinated and protected.

This year's vaccine has been updated to better match circulating viruses, that also includes the H3N2 component, they said. 

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