(KLFY) – Flu cases in Louisiana have risen to the highest point in five years, according to the Louisiana Department of Health, and a recent study by Walgreens also shows Louisiana has the highest flu rate in the country right now.

While Louisiana leads the country in flu cases, health officials in Acadiana add that the area is one region in the state with the highest flu activity and cases are expected to continue rising.

“The darker the color, the higher level of activity. So you can see, we’re region four. We have some of the highest activity in the state,” Regional Medical Director for the Office of Public Health in Acadiana Dr. Tina Stefanski said, pointing to a detailed map.

She told News 10 that it’s that time of the year when flu cases start to rise, but this year, they’re seeing tremendous increases in Acadiana.

“Louisiana is one of those states that’s reporting very high levels of the flu, and we have been for a couple of weeks. Unfortunately in this region, we’re not seeing it slow down,” Dr. Stefanski added.

She said that the number of flu cases now is breaking records.

“Actually in the last couple of years, cases have been mild flu seasons. In fact, here in Louisiana, where we are now, we’ve already surpassed the peak of the last five years of flu seasons. So this is a much worse flu season when compared to even the last five. The last two were mild. With COVID, we had lots of restrictions, social distancing, and people were being more careful. Understandably, we’ve had fewer cases of the flu,” she said.

She continued, “It’s important to realize it’s not just the last two years. When you look at the last five years, we’re already at this point in this season, we’ve already surpassed the peaks of those five years.”

With flu cases in Louisiana surpassing the numbers even before COVID, Dr. Stefanski said that there are several things you can do to protect yourself.

“Get your flu shot, keep your hands clean and away from your face. If you do have to cough or sneeze, do so into your elbows. That helps to limit your spread to other people, and when you’re sick, stay home. Those are really the big key messages,” she said.

Dr. Stefanski also said you can tell the difference between a cold, COVID, or the flu based on the symptoms. Flu symptoms include a sudden onset of fever, body aches, chills, cough, sore throat and headaches.