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.
newsy bits for the fam
Festival International de Louisiane is right around the corner — April 23-27 — and IND Monthly’s second annual Fest fIND contest is along for the ride.
Acadian rep notifies would-be supporters that an April 25 fundraiser for the embattled U.S. rep won’t go on as planned.
Georgia-based fried chicken chain would go up against Raising Cane’s, Chick-fil-A and others (like the Popeyes near its proposed location).
While it isn’t all too unusual for public bodies to have hired security present during meetings, the LPSB’s push to do so is arguably a response to the antics of one board member.
“I’m running. Why would I be raising all this money? Just to have to return it to people?”
With incumbent U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu watching from afar, and with a united Democratic Party in her corner, the fight to get the GOP officially behind Congressman Bill Cassidy is gaining just as much momentum as it is hushed controversy.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
15th Judicial District Judge Durwood Conque has announced that he will not seek re-election after 27 years on the bench.
The perfect color for Easter Sunday
The controversial standardized tests are set to be used in third-grade through eighth-grade public school classrooms next year.
The Louisiana Senate has agreed to prohibit unmanned aircraft from flying over chemical plants, water treatment systems, telecommunications networks and other items considered "critical infrastructure" in Louisiana.
A Scott businessman has pleaded guilty to failing to report a conspiracy to award Opelousas Housing Authority construction bids to his company.
It didn’t take long for KATC TV 3 to jump all over the news of a dead body found in Girard Park, but in its rush to produce headlines, the local TV station got sloppy.
Egg-citing ideas for sharing at family gatherings
Tuesday's Blogs from the Bog!
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Tuesday, April 15, 2014:
An unholy trinity of civil-society upheavalers whose first names are not Conner, Tanner or Logan are facing charges in Eunice.
Now that lawmakers have shot down efforts to cap annual interest rates for payday loans, supporters for stricter regulations of the storefront lenders are rallying behind another strategy.
The Appropriations Committee held public testimony day, letting people talk about what they like or don't like about Gov. Bobby Jindal's budget recommendations for the 2014-15 fiscal year that begins July 1.
Court-appointed examiner says Lafayette businessman was “effectively on both sides” of transactions, opens door for legal action against him.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
Lafayette-based insurance broker/risk management group bought by Florida firm for undisclosed sum; principals Landry and Harris continue to run local operations.
Lafayette police are investigating the death of a 21-year-old woman whose body was found early Sunday in a drainage ditch in Girard Park.
Former Grant parish District Attorney Ed Tarpley says he's running for the U.S. House seat currently held by Republican Vance McAllister of Swartz.
Louisiana-Lafayette got strong starting pitching and timely hitting to hold off Arkansas-Little Rock 6-3 in Sun Belt Conference baseball in Lafayette, La.
The life and legacy of Dave Perkins will be commemorated with a special INDesign Lifetime Achievement Award as part of the 2014 event on April 24.
Easy crafts in time for Easter
The Cane Fire Film Series presents “The Great Flood” on Monday, April 14, at the AcA.