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State could have up to 26,000 cases of swine flu

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  • State could have up to 26,000 cases of swine flu

    State could have up to 26,000 cases of swine flu
    Reported by: Jennifer Hale, Reporter
    Last Update: 8/26 7:02 pm

    Dr. Raoul Ratard likens the swine flu outbreak to a hurricane that we can't stop, but only prepare for. (Kia Callia, FOX 8 News) Metairie -

    State health experts say there are now 506 confirmed cases of swine flu in Louisiana.

    Based on those lab results, doctors estimate around 26,000 people are actually sick with swine flu across the state, and that number is expected to grow rapidly.

    Lately, Dr. Keith Kappel at the Lakeside Children's Clinic is spending most of his day treating kids with flu-like symptoms.

    "The number of patients coming in has increased substantially in the last 2 weeks," he says. Patients, like 16-year-old Emily Olliver, who are concerned they might have swine flu.

    ?I felt horrible. I had the cough, the chest, the head, everything," says Olliver.

    Infectious disease expert Dr. Raoul Ratard warns this is just the start.

    "It's a medical hurricane. It sweeps through. We can not stop the hurricane," he predicts.

    It is possible to get both the regular flu and the swine flu. That's why doctors say it's so important to get both vaccines. The swine flu shot won't be here until at least mid-October, but doctors recommend folks go ahead and get their regular flu shot immediately.

    The swine flu isn't expected to be any worse than the regular flu, but doctors worry what will happen if someone gets both viruses at the same time. That could give the viruses the chance to interact with each other.

    ?You may end up with a new virus that may be much worse than the one we have now," warns Ratard.

    Doctors say the best defense is to get three flu shots this year: one for regular flu now, the swine flu vaccine as soon as it becomes available, and then a swine flu booster shot a month later.

    ?That booster dose is fairly important,? says Kappel. Problem is - it may be hard to get.

    ?We have lots to give everybody that first dose. We don't have enough to give everyone that booster dose. Only time will tell how that works out and how many doses are available," says Kappel.

    He predicts folks with high risk will get the booster first, like children, the elderly and adults with chronic illnesses.

    Even if you cannot get the booster, that first swine flu shot is a great start.

    Dr. Kappel says he is hoping everyone will at least go get that so they have an initial layer of protection this winter. Look for it mid October or early November.

    For prevention tips and ways to find help if you think you have the flu, click here.
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