If you've noticed an empty chair or two at your office or in the classrooms you attend in recent weeks there's a really good explanation. It's the flu. The flu and flu-like illnesses continue to wreak havoc on the holiday lifestyles of thousands of residents in Louisiana and the Gulf South.

The Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta says Louisiana and it's neighbors, Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia are ground zero at this current moment in this year's flu season. Flu activity has already been documented at peak season rates even though we are still very early in the flu season.

Medical professionals say getting a flu shot is still your best option for preventing or at least diminishing the effects of the flu. There are also some prescription meds that are available for people who have been exposed to the flu or are at the very beginning of flu-like symptoms. These medicines can also decrease the intensity of flu symptoms and their duration.

Of course, the best way to battle the flu bug is to not get the flu bug. One of the best ways to avoid the flu is to simply wash your hands. Medical professionals recommend a good soapy wash with warm water. However, if there aren't a sink and soap available hand sanitizers do a pretty good job as well.

One more piece of advice. If you are sick please stay your butt at home. Since the flu virus is most often spread by sick people coming in contact with healthy people the more you can sequester yourself during your illness the better. We'll slide a bowl of soup under the door, we promise.