BATON ROUGE – It’s the middle of the day on a Tuesday and the Brighton School is empty.
Administrators say they made the decision to close the private K-12 school because one-fourth of students and one-fifth of teachers are out sick with the flu.
The flu is hitting Louisiana especially hard right now, and another respiratory illness called RSV, is running rampant among kids and adults, doctors say.
“This year it’s more than usual and also much earlier than usual,” Dr. Ashley Lucas said.
Both the flu and RSV can look similar. Commons symptoms include fever, chills and congestion. Most cases will be mild, but OLOL Children’s Hospital has had to admit some kids to the ICU.
“In older kids, it’s just a bad cold, but in young infants, especially those who are premature or have underlying cardiac conditions, it’s likely to cause wheezing and difficulty breathing, maybe low oxygen, so some of those kids end up in the hospital every year.”
However, doctors don’t want to cause panic and flood emergency rooms with kids who can recover at home. They say to always call your pediatrician first, and don’t always count on fever as an indicator for severity.
“If the child is completely miserable and the temperature is not technically fever and it’s 99 degrees and he’s miserable, well I’m giving him some tylenol or motrin so he can feel better. On the other hand if the kid is running a 101 temperature and is running around the room, I’m not treating that,” Dr. Brannon Perilloux said.
Right now, the only way to prevent RSV is to avoid exposure, but doctors say getting and spreading the flu is totally preventable.
“The best thing is to get a flu shot. Absolutely, we could take that off our plates, most of it, if everybody in this community got a flu vaccine,” said Lucas.