Flu season hits early and hard across state, nation

By Jonathan Olivier
Staff Writer

Published: Monday, January 5, 2015 at 8:41 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 5, 2015 at 8:41 p.m.
Dr. Frank Welch, immunization medical director for the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, described flu season in the state so far as "terrible."

"I've been at this job 20 years, and flu levels have gotten this high before, but I don't remember them being this high this early before," he said.

Flu outbreaks normally peak in Louisiana this month and into February, resulting in aches, fever and coughs in those infected. But the outbreak has reached high levels since the latter part of 2014, and Welch said he doesn't see any signs of it letting up in the near future.

"It's going to get worse before it gets better," he said.

Welch said seven out of every 100 doctor visits in the state currently are flu-related. Welch estimates there have been more than 300,000 cases of flu in Louisiana so far this season, many of which have gone unreported. So far, the state has recorded about 3,000 flu-related hospitalizations.
"It's estimated between 28,000 and 35,000 people die of flu every year," Welch said. "Surely Louisiana will have a burden of that. Directly or indirectly, probably around 500 and 600 people a year die because of flu" in Louisiana.