LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY) — Cases of the flu are already being reported in parts of Acadiana. The end of October typically marks the beginning of the flu season, and this year because of the interest in COVID-19, doctors are hopeful it will be a record year for the flu vaccines.
Both coronavirus and influenza are respiratory viruses, and Dr. Tina Stefanski, Region 4 Director for the Louisiana Department of Health said they don’t want two respiratory viruses that can cause significant hospitalizations and death circulating at the same time.
The Southern Hemisphere already experienced a milder flu season credited to COVID-19 prevention measures like limited capacity, social distancing, mask use, but both Coronavirus and Influenza are transmitted in the same way and affect the same high-risk groups.
There are differences between the flu and COVID-19. Dr. Stefanski emphasized one has a vaccine and affects children more.
The region 4 health director stressed if we want children to stay in should, “Follow the same preventative practices for COVID to prevent the risks of infection, but also understand that when flu outbreaks occur in schools, that is a tremendous burden on schools, and we see every year where schools have to close or take a break because there are flu cases circulating in the school.”
The flu vaccine now covers four strains of the flu instead of three as it used to, and everyone older than six months is able to be vaccinated.
There is a nasal spray, two needle methods (one for children and adults) available. Even if they doesn’t have a 100% chance of preventing the flu, it often results in milder cases.
According to Dr. Stefanski, “This is a vaccine that has been in production and administered for decades, so this is a safe vaccine. It’s tried and true. We know it prevents infection.”
Though not as deadly as COVID, the flu can still kill and fill hospital beds, so doctors hope while the world waits for coronavirus vaccine news, they won’t forget about the vaccine they already have access to.
She stated her hopes are that the opposite will happen, and a record number of people will get the flu vaccine. “For the respiratory virus we have a vaccine for, the flu, we want people to be sure to take that vaccine,” Dr. Stefanski said.
The Louisiana Department of Health is bringing free drive-thru clinics to each parish in region 4 with no appointments necessary. Thursday, Oct. 29, they will be in Opelousas Civic Center and Vermilion Parish Health Clinic from 7 A.M. – 5 P.M. They have already held drive thru clinics in Lafayette, St. Martin, Evangeine, Iberia, and Acadia Parishes. If you missed your event, you can call your local health clinic to make an appointment. Bring your insurance card if you have one.
Those who are over 65, have lung problems, or smoke should ask their health provider about a pneumonia vaccine.