By Wayne Hardy
Flu activity remains high throughout Georgia, and state public health officials are encouraging those who haven’t gotten a flu vaccine to avoid putting it off any longer.
The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) has confirmed more than 200 hospitalizations and two flu-related deaths statewide so far this flu season. Flu vaccines are still available for adults and child at the White County Health Department, said Nurse Manager Cindy King.
The main flu virus cropping up is a strain typically not seen until the latter part of flu season in the spring, according to a DPH report. This type of flu virus tends to affect children and young adults more than the elderly, though anyone is susceptible to it.
“Every individual over the age of six months should get a flu vaccine – not just for their own protection, but to protect others around them who may be more vulnerable to the flu and its complications,” says Dr. Kathleen E. Toomey, DPH commissioner. “It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies that protect against flu to develop in the body, so now is the time to get a flu shot.”
An uptick of reports of flu-like illness in White County Schools has also arrived earlier than usual, says Elizabeth Goodman, lead nurse for the school system.
“We don’t normally see it until after we come back from Christmas break,” she says.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that there have been at least 2.6 million flu-related illnesses nationwide this flu season, along with 1,300 deaths from flu.
Flu season can begin as early as October and last as late as May, according to state public health.
The Georgia Department of Public Health offers the following reminders for this flu season:
• Flu symptoms and their intensity can vary from person to person, and can include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. If you think you have the flu, call or visit a doctor.
• There are other things you can do to help prevent the spread of flu.
– Frequent and thorough hand-washing with soap and warm water. Alcohol-based gels are the next best thing if you don’t have access to soap and water.
– Cough or sneeze into the crook of your elbow or arm to help prevent the spread of the flu.
– 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 school or work.
– If you are caring for a sick individual at home, keep them away from common areas of the house and other people as much as possible.
The White County Health Department is at 1331 Helen Highway in Cleveland. (It will be closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.) For more information, call 706-865-2191.