The flu has hit early and hard this season in Georgia. Nationwide, 44 out of 50 states are now reporting widespread flu with the death of 18 children reported to be related to the flu. Walton County too has experienced an increase in hospital activity as a result of this spike in flu symptoms.
The season doesn't typically begin until February, but according to Google Flu Trends this year it started early and the current flu season in the Atlanta-area is "intense." Usually at this time, 2 percent of the hospital visits report flu like symptoms. That is already at 6 percent nationwide.
In Monroe, Clearview Regional Medical Center is reporting much the same scenario.
“It does seem that this flu season has hit much earlier and harder than previous years. We have seen an increase in visits to the ER with flu like symptoms,” said. Joe Galbreath, Emergency Department Director
However, officials with CRMC said the hospital has not had an overall increase in admissions due to flu, most are discharged home.
"We have taken precautions by providing masks for patients and visitors alike that might be experiencing flu like symptoms and encouraging frequent hand sanitation utilizing stations throughout the hospital," said Emily Russell, director of marketing for CRMC.
Tips from CRMC to help prevent the spread of flu include:
- Decreasing exposure to others and hand washing/sanitizing is the key to preventing the spread of any contagious illness.
- Healthy eating, exercise, and hydration all help the body’s immune system when trying to combat any illness."
More serious symptoms to watch out for:
- Severe respiratory distress, lethargy, unable to keep fluids down, dehydration etc might be reasons to come to the ED. Otherwise, the majority of flu cases are advised to stay home to limit their exposure and reduce the spread.
The CDC website has tips on how to best prevent the spread of the flu. One particular strain of flu going around seems to be rougher than usual: it lasts 5-8 days, and has symptoms that include a high fever (between 101 and 105 in both adults and children), aches and pain in the legs and hips, a cough, sore throat and fatigue, followed by a few days of what seems like a cold, with swollen lymph nodes.
“While we can’t say for certain how severe this season will be, we can say that a lot of people are getting sick with influenza and we are getting reports of severe illness and hospitalizations,” said Dr. Joe Bresee, who is Chief of the Epidemiology and Prevention Branch in CDC’s Influenza Division. “Reports of influenza-like-illness (ILI) are nearing what have been peak levels during moderately severe seasons."
Another bug that's going around is a 24-hour stomach bug, which includes vomiting and diarrhea.
If you feel that you're coming down with these symptoms, you can take over-the-counter medications like Tamiflu, Relenza, or Tylenol Cold and Flu. A heating pad for the aches and pains does wonders, as does a humidifier for the cough. And don't forget to drink lots of water or tea.
Do what you can to lower that fever too, including cool baths, an over-the-counter fever reducer and cool rag.
It spreads via infected people coughing, sneezing or talking, though people can also get infected by touching something with the flu virus on it before touching their mouth, eyes or nose. If you don't feel good, stay home, because it's very contagious.
While around 5.5 percent of all doctor's visits in Georgia are for the flu-like symptoms, hospitals recommend that you do not go to the emergency room for them.
Officials say it's not too late to get a flu vaccine, although it takes a couple of weeks to build up immunity, according to FOX.
Flu shots are an inactivated vaccine made from killed virus, which means it’s impossible to get the flu from the vaccine, according to Dr. Angela Rasmussen, an infectious disease expert.
There are currently three flu shots being produced in the U.S.: the regular (intramuscular) seasonal flu shot, a high-dose vaccine for people 65 and older, and an intradermal (injected into the skin) vaccine for people ages 18 to 64.
In addition, a nasal-spray flu vaccine made with live, weakened flu viruses (which also do not cause the flu) is available to healthy people ages 2 to 49-years-old, except pregnant women.
The most common side effect from a flu shot is soreness at the injection site. Flu shots are available at several locations and. The North East Georgia Health Department, however, recommends that people check with Walton County prior to stopping by for a flu shop because of limited supply.
The health department numbers are:
- MONROE: 770-207-4125
- LOGANVILLE: 770-466-1789
Snellville Patch editor Crystal Huskey contributed to this report.