The H1N1 virus is back with a vengeance.
Nicknamed swine flu, H1N1 appeared in 2009 and subsided the past three years. But as flu season unfolds, it’s again attacking children and young adults. North Louisiana doctors have reported more cases than most of the state since Oct. 1.
As of Dec. 7, nearly half of flu cases with an identified viral type in Louisiana came from the H1N1, according to state health department reports. That’s consistent with national trends.
“This is the same H1N1, so the risk for children, pregnant women, the people with underlying conditions and younger people is the same,” said Dr. Joseph Bocchini, director of the clinical virology lab at University Health Shreveport.
During the 2009-10 flu season, swine flu hit children, teenagers and young adults hardest. State public health workers took the unprecedented step of offering vaccines at campuses in nine Northwest Louisiana parishes. They vaccinated an estimated 37,000 youngsters at schools that flu season.
State health officials estimated 292,000 cases of swine flu in Louisiana during that season, based on 2,396 lab-confirmed cases with the H1N1 virus.
Bocchini said it’s not too late to get a flu vaccine. Doctors recommend that anyone 6 months old or older get vaccinated.
He also encourages more attention to hygiene to avoid giving the flu along with a Christmas present. “The virus can remain infectious on doorknobs and other inanimate objects. Good hand washing is really important.”
“There has been a significant increase in the influenza virus and influenza-like activity over the last two to three weeks,” said Dr. James Cotter, emergency services director for Christus Health Shreveport-Bossier. “We are seeing cases in those (who) have and have not been vaccinated, although the majority of cases did not receive vaccination this year.”
Patients have been in all age groups, although there are slightly less in the 65-plus group, he said.
“The confirmed cases we have seen have been fairly mild,” Cotter said. “We are prescribing antivirals if symptoms have lasted less than 48 hours and our patients desire to take them. Otherwise, it is symptomatic treatment.”