State launches flu shot campaign

LSU Tiger baseball coach Paul Mainieri’s never been a fan of getting shots of any kind.

“Needles and myself are not great,” Mainieri said.

But there he was Wednesday, urging Louisiana residents to get flu shots as the state launched its annual “Fight the Flu” campaign.

He was part of a statewide campaign advertising the need for flu shots.

The flu shots are available at pharmacies, parish health units, school clinics, rural health clinics and federally qualified health centers.

The state Department of Health and Hospitals, which organized the campaign, stated that millions of individuals contract the flu every year and more than 36,000 people in the U.S. die.

In Louisiana last year, DHH reported 679 flu-related deaths.

The flu is caused by the influenza virus, which is an infection of the respiratory system that causes fever, cough, sore throat, runny/stuffy nose, chills, fatigue and body aches.

A vaccination, according to DHH, is the proven way to fight seasonal flu and preventing the spread of this virus.

Mainieri said his aversion to shots changed when he came down with the flu five years ago while getting ready to go to a coaches meeting.

“I woke up that day and I really felt like I was going to die,” Mainieri said. The diagnosis: the flu and what followed, according to Mainieri, “the most miserable experience I’ve ever had.”

Mainieri said he’s had a flu shot religiously every year since then and makes sure LSU baseball players gets their shots, too.

The flu can “bring the strongest, most fit people to their knees,” Mainieri said.

On Wednesday, Mainieri looked on as Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne and state health secretary Kathy Kliebert got their shots at the East Baton Rouge Parish Health Unit.

“Make sure you put the flu vaccination on the holiday to-do list,” Kliebert said.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the flu vaccine for anyone older than 6 months.

Vaccination of the high-risk is especially important including young children, pregnant women, people with chronic diseases such as asthma, diabetes, heart or lung disease and those age 65-plus, Kliebert said.

Healthy people between the ages of 2 and 49 also have the option to get a vaccine through nasal spray.

Dardenne said he took his 93-year-old mother to get a flu shot about a month ago to ensure she was protected, too.

“It’s important to remind Louisianians they need to take this very important step,” said Dardenne. “It’s easy. It’s quick. It’s painless.”

Flu season began last month, but Louisiana’s peak season is January through March and April, said state health officer Dr. Jimmy Guidry. “Get your flu shot and play it safe,” he said.

Guidry said there’s plenty of vaccine available and at a variety of places from doctor’s offices to pharmacies, parish health units, federally qualified health centers and clinics.

“It’s not very costly. It’s certainly not as costly as the flu,” said Guidry, mentioning the cost of being sick and out of work. “For $10, you can get a flu shot in some places.”

Kliebert said the flu can spread from person to person through coughing, sneezing and casual contact. She suggested some preventive strategies such as covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and washing your hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based sanitizer.

For information on the flu and how to protect yourself, visit www.dhh.louisiana.gov/fighttheflu.