With Georgia being one of the 41 states that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are reporting that have widespread influenza, a flu shot may still be the best defense this season. The CDC also is predicting that this flu season may last longer than usual.
“Flu activity increased again this past week in Georgia. We are at a high level with flu reported statewide,” said Hayla Folden, risk communicator at District 4 Health Services. “Georgia has recorded one flu-associated death, which, compared to neighboring states, is extremely low. There have been 59 flu-related hospitalizations in metro Atlanta, which is a high number.
“A flu shot is still the best preventative measure, along with frequent hand washing, covering your mouth with your arm when you cough and/or sneeze and staying at home if you are sick.”
In LaGrange, health professionals have seen how people are experiencing the symptoms and complications of the flu.
“We have seen a drastic increase of individuals who are coming in here and are testing positive for the flu this season,” said Dr. Clinton Carter of E.R. Alternative. “The best protection against getting the flu is still the flu vaccine.
“Who we are most concerned about are the people in the extreme age groups, the very young and the very old. People in these age groups tend to tilt easier, that is their symptoms will get worse easier.”
According to the CDC, everyone 6 months and older should be vaccinated. Individuals who have very serious medical conditions, are pregnant, or are very young or old are at a higher risk of developing serious complications from the flu and are especially warned that they should receive the vaccine.
The flu virus spreads from person to person through droplets when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. Infected individuals may infect someone else even a day before they show signs of having the flu themselves.
Each year the general flu vaccine is made a bit different to help protect the population from the viruses that health officials are suspecting will influence the new flu season. This year’s flu vaccine is made from three different strains of virus and includes both the A H1N1-like virus and the A H3N2-like virus. The vaccine does not contain live viruses and usually takes about 7-14 days before it will start to give protection.
West Georgia Health Infection Control Manager Bonnie Norrick warns that with the reopening of the schools there will be an increase of flu cases.
“Since early November we have seen an increase of confirmed flu cases in the ER; it peaked about two weeks ago,” Norrick said. “Now that schools are open again we anticipate that the number of cases will again go up. It is important that especially young children are vaccinated.”
Flu vaccines are readily available locally. Vaccines may be obtained from family physicians, medical clinics and are available at local pharmacies.
Flu symptoms usually include fever and chills, body aches, fatigue or weakness and a cough. Since flu symptoms can quickly worsen, to avoid serious complications, it is always advisable to seek medical attention and carefully follow the prescribed medical advise.
Additional information concerning influenza may be obtained online at www.cdc.gov and www.district4health.org.