You may be entering an area where flu activity is high. And a new app can alert you if that's the case.

Sickweather/Facebook

The free smartphone app is called Sickweather. It uses information shared on social media like "I'm sick" or "My son has the flu" and plots it on a map to let other users know about the health (or sickness) in the area. It does not, however, share names or other personal information.

Users of the app can choose which illnesses to monitor, from seasonal allergies to stomach viruses to the flu. Sickweather also provides a timeline or "forecast" so you know how recent the activity was reported.

In addition to social media information, users of Sickweather can also self-report within the app itself. Again, reports will remain anonymous.

In terms of the flu for 2014, the CDC is characterizing activity in Louisiana as "widespread," meaning the state has seen more cases than those in its region.

The best defense against the flu, according to the CDC, is still the flu vaccine. While it may not cover all strains, it may still be an effective tool in mitigating the duration and symptoms should someone get a flu strain not covered by this year's vaccination. It takes about two weeks for the flu vaccine to become fully effective.

Keep in mind that children return to school in Acadiana on Monday, January 5th. There have been several reports of the flu over the holiday break. Once the children are back in school, it's conceivable that the number could go up as they come into contact with one another again.

As always, the CDC reminds us all to do these things to prevent against getting the flu:

1. Stay home when you are sick.

2. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you sneeze or cough. Do so into your elbow if a tissue is unavailable.

3. Wash your hands well and as often as possible.

Related articles:

http://www.thenewsstar.com/story/news/local/2014/12/27/flu-season-expected-rough-year/20950381/

http://www.wwl.com/Louisiana-Flu-outbreak-is-getting-worse/20574937