Flu reaches epidemic level in Georgia, state says

Georgia Department of Public Health officials urge Georgians to get flu shots

The state of Georgia is now in the midst of a flu epidemic, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health in a news release issued Friday afternoon.

The flu is hitting Georgia harder this year than it has in nearly a decade, the DPH said. Flu activity is widespread throughout the state and the number of flu related hospitalizations is high. So far, two adult, flu-related deaths have been reported in Georgia.

“We are seeing some decrease in flu activity, but we are still at epidemic level and the flu is unpredictable,” says Patrick O’Neal, M.D., director of the Division of Health Protection, DPH.

“We are getting reports of more severe flu effects in neighboring states, including the number of deaths. Peak flu season typically does not happen until late January or early February so we may not have seen the worst yet,” O’Neal said.

The most recent flu report may also be affected by doctors’ offices being closed for the holidays and people traveling, DPH said.

Flu symptoms and their intensity can vary person to person. If you think you have the flu, call or visit your doctor. They will advise you on the best course of treatment, DPH said.

DPH recommended the following:

“It is important to take preventative measures now to minimize the effects of the flu and stay healthy. It is not too late to get a flu shot!

“The single most effective way to prevent the flu is the flu vaccine and there is plenty of vaccine available statewide. Every healthy individual over the age of 6 months should get a flu vaccine.

“The predominant strain of flu circulating in Georgia and around the country is H3N2. This year’s vaccine is a close match, making it effective in preventing the flu or minimizing its symptoms and duration.

“There are other things you can do to help keep yourself from getting sick. Frequent and thorough hand washing with warm water and soap will help protect you from the flu. Alcohol based gels are the next best thing if you don’t have access to soap and water.

“Cover the nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing to help prevent the spread of the flu. Use a tissue or cough or sneeze into the crook of the elbow or arm. Avoid touching your face as flu germs can get into the body through mucus membranes of the nose, mouth and eyes.

“If you are sick, stay home from school or work. Flu sufferers should be free of a fever without the use of a fever reducer for at least 24 hours before returning to work or school.

“If you are caring for a sick individual at home, keep them away from other people as much as possible. Keep the sick person away from common areas of the house and if you have more than one bathroom, have the sick person use one and well people use the other. Clean the sick room and the bathroom once a day with household disinfectant.

“No one should visit the sick person other than the caregiver. Clean linens, eating utensils, and dishes used by the sick person thoroughly before reusing. You do not need to wash items separately.

To learn more about influenza and the nationwide epidemic go to www.flu.gov.

For more information about DPH, visit www.health.state.ga.us.