Baton Rouge – The most recent report from the Louisiana Department of Health shows that seasonal flu activity is widespread throughout the state. This mirrors reports from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that classify almost the entire United States as having widespread flu reports.

There is no mandatory reporting of the flu. Instead, in Louisiana, the Department of Health has established a sentinel surveillance system where some hospitals, doctors’ offices, schools and nursing homes report on flu activity they are treating. This includes both laboratory-confirmed cases of influenza as well as cases of people who are ill with flu-like symptoms.

Earlier this week, officials with the CDC said a partial explanation for the widespread flu activity is that the current vaccine doesn’t protect against most of the spreading flu viruses. Usually, the vaccine fends off about 70 to 90 percent of flu bugs, but this year’s vaccine is only about 40 percent effective.

Health officials remind people that in addition to a getting an annual flu shot, practicing good health habits are the best way to prevent the spread of illness. These habits include:

• Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick.

• Stay home when you are sick. You will help prevent others from catching your illness.

• Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.
• Hand washing often will help protect you from germs.

• Avoid spreading germs by not touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

• Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids and eat nutritious food.

The CDC also recommends following your doctor’s advice when it comes to the use of drugs to fight the flu. Typically, the use of these medicines should begin within 48 hours of getting sick. If you have symptoms such as high fever, headache, extreme tiredness, dry cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose and muscle aches, talk to your doctor about the use of antiviral drugs.