Flu season in full swing; time to get vaccinated

by Bradley Hartsell

December is the start of flu season, and though the flu scare is prominent in workplaces and schools, reports from the District 4 Division of Public Health indicate this sick season is at least no worse than in prior years.

Hayla Folden, risk communicator for District 4 Health Services, says the strains of flu the department has found in its reports are AH1N1, which has been circulating since 2009, influenza A and influenza B. Folden said the last two strains were not able to be identified with a subcategory but that it’s a reflection of the tests and not a reflection of a new strain of flu.

Folden stressed the importance of getting vaccinated and that it’s not too late to get vaccinated, even as flu has hit Coweta per usual this time of year.

“We’re not seeing anything abnormal or extreme for this flu season,” Folden said. “But it will be more dangerous for people who have underlying conditions like diabetes or heart disease.”

Folden emphasised people with existing medical conditions should make getting vaccinated a priority.

“Typically people don’t think about the flu at all until it hits close to home,” she said of those who wait to get vaccinated.

The Georgia Department of Public Health has confirmation of two flu-related deaths in the state, according to an announcement late Wednesday. These are the first confirmed flu-related deaths in Georgia this flu season. Both of the deceased were adults.

Amanda Bartlett, media relations for Piedmont Hospitals, confirmed that Piedmont Newnan Hospital on Poplar Road is not seeing anything this year that they haven’t seen in prior years.

“Nothing out of the ordinary. It’s the middle of flu season, of course, here in December and on through March, but nothing extreme.”

Vaccinations are still available and are recommended in order to help people stay healthy during the flu season, health officials said.

While the flu level is still considered minimal in Georgia, the state Department of Public Health is reporting increases in flu activity statewide, including hospitalizations.

Symptoms of the flu include cough, runny nose, sore throat and fever, according to state DPH officials. One of the most pronounced flu symptoms is an overall feeling of achiness and malaise that comes on quickly.

“The single most effective way to prevent the flu is the flu vaccine. Every healthy individual over the age of 6 months should get a flu vaccine, unless there are underlying medical conditions. In those cases, patients should consult their physician,” said J. Patrick O’Neal, M.D., director of health protection, Georgia Department of Public Health.

“The holidays bring gatherings with family and friends and increase the likelihood of spreading the flu. Now is the time to get vaccinated.” Frequent and thorough hand washing also will help guard against the flu. Alcohol-based gels are the next best thing if there is no 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, say state health officials. 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.

Peak flu season is usually the end of January and runs through late February or early March, said DPH officials.



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