Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is a contagious respiratory infection caused by viruses. It affects the nose, throat, and sometimes the lungs. The flu can be mild to severe, and sometimes fatal for high-risk groups. Symptoms include fever, cough, muscle aches, congestion, runny nose, and fatigue. The flu can be spread through saliva, physical contact, airborne respiratory droplets (coughing and sneezing), and contaminated surfaces.
The best way to prevent the flu is to get a flu shot every year. Because the virus changes from year to year, it is recommended that each person get a flu vaccine each year at the beginning of the flu season in the fall. The vaccine can help prevent the virus overall or, at the very least, can help keep the symptoms mild if contracted. Other ways to prevent the flu virus is to wash your hands consistently, avoid touching your face and eyes, and covering your nose and mouth when you sneeze using a tissue or the inside of your arm/elbow.
While the flu can be easily avoided with a vaccine and precautionary steps, people still get the flu every year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention consistently measure influenza activity throughout the United States and publishes a weekly surveillance report called FluView. FluView provides all up-to-date information about the flu virus, including activity estimates (sporadic, local activity, regional, and widespread) and levels of activity (minimal, low, moderate, and high).
There are ten states that have seen a decrease in flu rates. They are:
- Wyoming (- 0.93%)
- West Virginia (- 0.77%)
- Illinois (- 0.32%)
- Hawaii (- 0.27%)
- New York (- 0.26%)
- Alaska (- 0.23%)
- Louisiana (- 0.16%)
- Connecticut (- 0.13%)
- Rhode Island (- 0.05%)
- Kansas (- 0.02%)
Forty states have seen an increase in flu rates ranging from 0.03% to 2.05%. Overall, the states seeing the highest influenza activity are Louisiana with “high activity” and Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Texas, all with “moderate activity.”
Louisiana is the only state with “high” influenza activity, with most cases being seen in the New Orleans metro area and southern points of the state. The number of cases so far in 2019 exceeds a national average, which is 2.4% of outpatient cases, while Louisiana’s stands at 4.6% - nearly double the national average. The number of cases in Louisiana is higher than the number of cases in the past five years. Because temperatures usually drop further before seeing an onslaught of influenza-like cases, officials are concerned that the numbers will only continue to grow.