While the outlook for the rest of the season isn't clear, experts are encouraging people to take precautions such as getting a flu shot and making it a practice to wash hands often to prevent the spread of germs.
Both states are among 29 reporting high levels of flu-like illness. Although 18 children nationwide have died from the flu since early October, none was in Mississippi or Louisiana.
State epidemiologists in Louisiana and Mississippi say emergency rooms have not reported turning away patients because of high numbers of the flu, as has happened at Chicago-area hospitals.
"This is going to be one of the very busy seasons," said Louisiana's state epidemiologist, Dr. Raoult Ratard.
Mississippi doctors and emergency rooms reported an average of more than 13 patients out of every 100 with flu-like illnesses last week, said state epidemiologist Thomas Dobbs. Outside of flu season, he said, the average is about 5 in 100 for those 46 "sentinel sites" — doctors' offices, emergency rooms and urgent care centers that make weekly reports.
Louisiana's most recent weekly report, for the last week in December, showed 275 or more positive flu tests every week in December from the 60 to 70 sentinel sites, and about 9 percent of all patients showing flu-like symptoms.
Nationwide, the proportion of outpatient visits for influenza-like illness that week was 5.6 percent compared to the national baseline of 2.2 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But Ratard said prediction is imprecise at best. For the most part, he said, "you cannot tell until it's over. The flu season that starts early and finishes early is going to be a long season and the flu season that starts late and ends early is going to be a short one. There's nothing else we can say about it."
In both states, as nationwide, the most frequently identified strain of flu is one of the three covered by this year's vaccine.
"The most prevalent strain going around matches the vaccine very well," Ratard said.
Some people will get ill even after getting the vaccine because they were exposed before the vaccine could create an immune response, they got a strain of flu not covered by the shot or another virus or germ entirely, or because their bodies don't respond as strongly to the vaccine.
"For people 65 years and older, there's a high-dose flu vaccine that may be more effective," Dodds said.
People who become ill after vaccination are likely to have a less severe illness than they would have without the shot.
In any case, try to avoid spreading whatever you have. "If you're sick, stay home," Dodds said. "Try to give yourself at least 24 hours from the end of fever before you get back to work or around other individuals. And also remember to see your doctor if you get sick, because there are antiviral medicines that can help lessen the severity and shorten the disease."
In each state about 600 people die each year from flu-like illnesses.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday, December 13, 2013:
September's $509 million in sales pushed Lafayette Parish's nine-month total to $4.4 billion.
The Louisiana Supreme Court has punted on its first chance to decide whether a new state constitutional provision declaring gun possession a fundamental right could void a long list of criminal statutes that regulate firearms.
New Orleans' offense, which ranks sixth in the NFL, isn't helping many of its skill players pile up Pro Bowl-type stats. Rather, the approach of coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees has enabled a wide range of play-makers to emerge periodically with high-production outings.
An ordinance phasing out a rebate businesses receive for collecting and remitting sales taxes is tabled, but it doesn’t solve the vexing issue of government revenue.
From jewelry to home goods, deals abound
Forgiving shapes for NOLA Bowl
As part of a national undertaking known by industry insiders as the “Butterfly Project,” a rebranded version of The Daily Advertiser is set to launch with Sunday’s edition of the Gannett-owned paper.
Louisiana moved up a slot to 48th in the ranking of healthy states — once again, thank God for Mississippi! — so all this frettin’ about Gov. Bobby Jindal’s refusal to expand Medicaid per Obamacare ... fuggidaboutit! We don’t need Medicaid no more!
The Denham Springs woman who placed Christmas lights in the shape of a butter finger on her roof in a display of anger directed at neighbors has doubled the trouble for the 2013 holiday season.
The New Orleans architect behind the 1984 World’s Fair also left his mark on Lafayette.
Laid back vibe just right for NOLA Bowl
The 30-second commercial, to run around the state, is the Democratic senator's first TV spot in her bid for re-election to a fourth term.
It's a number that has edged up but falls far short of the thousands who are eligible for subsidized coverage.
A group of mostly higher education leaders will make recommendations to state lawmakers about how to tweak the policies governing tuition rates charged at the state's public colleges.
Week long specials and a ribbon cutting celebration held in Parc Lafayette
Fort Worth company's new facility at Lafayette Regional Airport will build helicopters primarily for the export market.
Could River Ranch restaurant be the next star?
Move over Hooters — there’s a new breastaurant coming to town.
Hashtag, retweet, like, share and do whatever else it takes to get in good today with the jolly man in red.