February is here. It's the month which the CDC reported as the peak of flu season. Now, the peak remains elusive, as this flu epidemic is shaping up to be the worst flu season since the swine flu outbreak of 2009. More than three dozen pediatric deaths have been reported, and baby boomers are being hit hard.
The flu isn't sparing the Pine Belt. Dr. Lara Otaigbe of Southern Medical Care in Lamar County said she has seen a 40 percent increase in flu cases at her clinic, and there are back orders for the flu tests they use.
"The other problem that we've had is that the flu vaccine has had probably about a 30 percent success rate," Otaigbe said.
She said the flu strains that are spreading across the country are causing what she called an exuberant immune response in people.
"When you have that then the body starts to attack itself," Otaigbe said.
Otaigbe explained this extreme immune response can attack the heart.
"Which can then lead to damage to the heart," Otaigbe said.
She said the body's immune response to the flu can cause it to attack your organs, which can lead to organ failure.
"Pneumonia, and things like that which can then ultimately lead to death," Otaigbe said.
She added when it comes to the flu time is crucial.
"The most worrisome thing that I hear from patients is that, 'I was too sick to go to the doctor,'" Otaigbe said. "If you have symptoms that are worrisome, you have fever that comes on suddenly, headaches, body aches, symptoms that are suggestive of the flu go to the doctor right away. We have a 48 to 72-hour window when we can give you medication that is quite effective against the flu. That's when you need to get in, that's when we need to see you."
Otagibe warned that dehydration and shortness of breath are other complications that cause the body to take a turn for the worse. Otaigbe wanted everyone to know that there is still time to get your flu shot. She said it does provide some protection.