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Crowds, Carnival can be contagious; protect yourself from flu, doctor says

The best thing to do, doctors said, is to practice good hygiene. People should wash their hands and cough or sneeze into their arms.


Big crowds are common during Carnival, but some are worried that will also increase their chances of getting the flu. 

At the inaugural Algiers Mardi Gras Festival Saturday evening, reporter Duke Carter spoke to many wanting to get in on the fun, without getting sick.

"I had some grilled oysters and they were outstanding," Julie Greeburg, a krewe member said.

Many festival-goers like Greeburg didn't want to miss out on the food, music, arts and crafts, but said they did take precautions to protect themselves and their family members from getting sick during flu season.

"I wash my hands a lot and keep my son from putting his hand in his mouth," Ian Kennard who attended the festival said.

Others said that hand washing as well as using hand sanitizer helps protect them from getting sick because doctors have said it's been a busy flu season in Louisiana.

Fred Lopez, a doctor with LSU Health Infectious Diseases, said the United States, and in particular, Louisiana has seen higher levels of flu since October. This year's flu season was different because of another strain of the flu virus that is causing people to get sick.

"So far this year in the United States, the Victoria strain has really predominated," Lopes said. "The last couple of weeks in the United States we have seen more H1N1 than the Victoria but again they both behave very similarly," Lopez said.

However, doctors said there are many things people can do to protect themselves from getting sick during Carnival.

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The best thing to do, doctors said, is to practice good hygiene. People should wash their hands and cough or sneeze into their arms.

"If somebody who is sick coughs and shakes your hand or hands you a bead they've been holding, it now has viral particles. Then you take your hand put it on the bead and put it on your eyes your mouth or nose — that could set up an infection," Lopez said.

Medical experts also recommended staying away from people. Standing in close distance to people infected with the virus could get people sick.

"If they cough, if they sneeze or even if they just talk, those viral particles could conceivably land on your mouth, in your nose or you can inhale them into your lungs," Lopez said.

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