Southwest Health District’s disease trackers say the unusual amount of influenza activity in Georgia so early in the season is worrisome, and urge residents who haven’t yet gotten vaccinated against seasonal flu to do so.
“Georgia is leading the country in reported flu activity, and Southwest District is seeing higher than average numbers for this time of year,” said Southwest Health District Health Director Dr. Jacqueline Grant. “What that suggests is that this is shaping up to be an active flu season. If you haven’t been vaccinated against the flu, please consider doing it now, before the holidays.”
From Nov. 11 through Nov. 30, Southwest Health District received reports of 99 positive cases of flu, including six hospitalizations. Around 60% of the cases were in children.
“The highest percent of cases – 31.3% – was in children aged five to 17,” said Grant. The next highest percentage, 30.3%, was in children four years and younger.
Individuals aged 65 and older reported the fewest number of flu cases in the district.
“Flu activity is significantly higher for this time of year than we typically see here in our 14 counties,” Grant said. “In an average flu season at this time of year, we generally see five or six cases of flu.”
Nearly 54% of the District’s confirmed flu cases were white patients; nearly 27% were African American patients; nearly 4% were Hispanic; and roughly 13 percent were of unknown racial determination.
Flu levels tend to peak in January or February, she said. Cases taper off after that, but influenza continues to circulate in Southwest Health District until around May.
“This time of year, as people are traveling to visit relatives and friends and getting together at events to celebrate the season, germs have an opportunity to hitchhike from person-to-person,” Grant said. “But the last thing anybody wants to get – or give – is the flu. That’s why Public Health is reminding people to get vaccinated if you haven’t done so. It’s not too late to get protected.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a seasonal flu vaccination for everyone 6 months and older. Those most at risk for complications from flu – and who are therefore most strongly recommended to get flu vaccinations – include:
- Children 6 months through 18 years old
- People 50 years old and older
- People with chronic diseases such as diabetes or asthma
- People living in nursing homes or long-term care homes
- Women who are pregnant
- Healthcare providers
Also, people can decrease their chances of getting or spreading the flu by:
- Staying home when sick and keeping sick children home
- Washing hands often with soap or using hand sanitizer
- Covering coughs and sneezes
“If you have questions about whether you or your loved one should get a flu shot, check with your healthcare provider,” Grant said. “Information about seasonal flu is also available at Southwest Health District’s web site, www.southwestgeorgiapublichealth.org, or from your county health department.