Flu cases continue to soar in SWLA: mainly H1N1

Thursday, January 16, 2014
By Paul Martin

By Britney Glaser
Jan 16, 2014

State health officials are warning this year’s flu looks a lot like the 2009 strain that killed thousands of people. Local infectious disease physician, Timothy Haman, explains what is making this year’s flu so intense.

Hospitals in Southwest Louisiana are busy with the flu, reporting three times the baseline number. “Our flu activity right now is very elevated. The usual baseline is around 2.5 percent and we are well over 7.0 percent,” said Dr. Haman with CHRISTUS St. Patrick Hospital.

Dr. Haman says the predominant strain is H1N1, the same as the deadly swine flu outbreak of 2009. “It tends to be a little more infectious and it tends to spread a little more easily than the other strains,” he said.

Younger people are being hit especially hard by the flu this year and it is packing a nasty punch. “They can have a very severe response and develop what is called acute respiratory distress syndrome,” said Dr. Haman, “and we have seen several cases of this, both at our hospital and other hospitals locally.”

This year’s flu test is not proving as effective as in years past. Some people presenting with flu-like symptoms are being told they do not have the flu. However, when those samples undergo more sensitive testing at a site in New Orleans, they test positive for the flu. “We had several patients that appeared to have very severe cases of the flu, but their swabs were negative so we contacted the Office of Public Health and were able to do some more sensitive and they did all return positive for flu,” said Dr. Haman.

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