Normally, flu activity goes down at this time of the year.   However, State Immunization Director Dr. Frank Welch says the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in about one in ten doctors visits being for flu-like symptoms.

“The challenge is, of course, coronavirus.  The way we measure flu activity in Louisiana is the number of people going to doctors’ offices and hospitals with flu-like symptoms and typically by now that has really started to slow down,” said Welch.

Both coronavirus and flu have similar symptoms.  Welch says with the high rates of testing for COVID-19, the math paints a picture of flu activity being much higher than normal.

“Out of the tens of thousands of tests that we’ve done, only about ten to fifteen percent are actually coronavirus, so we have to assume that a significant portion of those leftover are in fact the flu,” said Welch.

Many of the spread mitigation efforts of coronavirus run parallel to combatting the flu as well.  Welch says the one big difference maker is having a vaccine for the flu.  While it doesn’t guarantee someone won’t get the flu, it will reduce the severity of the illness and reduce the chance of hospitalization.

“What we don’t want to do is have multiple things piled on top of multiple things.  That’s what is going to cause extreme pressure on our health care system and that is really what we want to avoid,” said Welch.