Flu in Georgia: 2012-2013
Influenza (flu) is hitting Georgia harder this season than at any time in the past 10 years. This disease should not be taken lightly, it can be serious or even fatal. The Georgia Department of Public Health is urging all Georgians to protect themselves from the flu by getting vaccinated and using proper flu hygiene.
Data as of January 12, 2012 showed flu is widespread in Georgia, meaning that flu or influenza-like illness and recent laboratory-confirmed influenza have occurred throughout the state. However, there has been a slight decrease in flu activity in the first two weeks of January. In metro Atlanta hospitals, 555 people have been hospitalized with the flu this season. So far, Georgia has had two-flu related deaths, but the flu has killed dozens of people in other states.
Peak flu season in Georgia usually occurs in late January and early February, and can last well into March. However, given the early and intense start of this flu season, it could last longer this year.
It is not too late to get a flu shot, and Georgia still has plenty of flu vaccine. Flu vaccination is the best method of protection against the virus, and this year's flu vaccine is a close match to the predominant strain of flu. Georgians can get a flu vaccine from a health care provider, a pharmacy or at their local county health department.
Health officials urge everyone over the age of six months to get a flu shot, especially children, people age 65 and older, pregnant women and people with certain health conditions, such as heart, lung or kidney disease or a weakened immune system. Anyone who has contact with these groups is also urged to get vaccinated. Read more information from the CDC about the flu vaccine here.
The flu is a contagious disease caused by the influenza virus, which can be spread by coughing, sneezing or nasal secretions. For most people, symptoms last a few days and include:
- Sore throat
- Muscle aches
- Runny or stuffy nose
Flu can also cause high fever and pneumonia, and it can worsen existing medical conditions. The virus can also cause diarrhea and seizures in children.
People who have the flu should stay home from work or school to avoid spreading the disease to others. If you think you have the flu, health officials urge you to first call your doctor or health care provider. They will determine the best course of treatment for you.
In addition to the flu vaccine, basic hygiene methods can offer protection against the flu.
- Wash your hands often with warm water and soap.
- Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if water and soap are not available.
- Cough or sneeze into the crook of your arm or shoulder.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, where flu germs can easily enter your body.
- Routinely clean frequently touched objects, such as doorknobs, keyboards and phones.
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.
Read more tips on flu prevention from CDC.
Learn what you should know about 2013-2014 flu season from CDC.
Where Can I get a flu vaccination?
School-based Flu Clinics
A recent study done by the Georgia Department of Education showed that there is a direct correlation between the number of school absences and graduation rates. The more days missed in schools significantly reduces the graduation rate. Similarly, the more days a student is present in school, the higher the CRCT scores are.
Because a student with flu will miss a significant number of days from school, flu vaccines become even more important. Local health officials recognize that flu vaccines can reduce the number of days missed from school, which will increase their academic performance.
For the past three years, our local Health Departments have held school-based influenza vaccination clinics in some of the schools in our health districts. Because of the successes of these school clinics and many like them throughout the nation, the Georgia Department of Public Health and the Georgia Department of Education are jointly supporting the effort to reach an even greater number of children who otherwise might never receive proper vaccine protection this fall. The value of reducing absences and medical morbidity in students, faculty, staff, and parents as a result of these clinics has been shown to be highly significant. Our goal is to immunize over 50% of all the children against influenza.
Parents and guardians will be sent information regarding the benefits of vaccinations, along with encouragement to take their children to their private physicians when possible. Explanations of the contraindications for receiving various forms of the vaccine, a permission form, and a description of the process within the school for administration of the vaccines will be provided for those who elect to have them vaccinated in the school clinics. Although parents will be invited to attend their children at the time of our scheduled clinics in the schools, they are not required to be present
Local county health departments
All of Georgia's 159 county health departments offer flu vaccinations. Contact your local health department for clinic information and hours.
Your healthcare provider
Flu vaccines are available in a wide variety of locations including your child's pediatrician and other private providers.
Local pharmacy in your area
A number of pharmacies have become most active in recent years in taking part in seasonal flu immunization campaigns. Contact or visit your local pharmacy to ask if vaccines are available and to learn what items may need to be provided in order to receive the vaccine.