North Georgians Urged to take Extra Precautions as Viral Illnesses Increase
North Georgia – North Georgia Health District officials report that there has been an increase in the number of stomach virus and influenza outbreaks in north Georgia and warn that the results could be severe, possibly requiring hospitalization.
“It is not too late to vaccinate against the flu,” said Sherry Gregory, RN, North Georgia Health District Infectious Disease Supervisor. “Flu activity is increasing throughout our area. We expect the flu season to reach its peak early this year, within the next few weeks, so it is important to get vaccinated now. Flu vaccination not only protects the person who receives the vaccine but it also keeps them from spreading the flu virus to others.”
Everyone 6 months of age and older should be vaccinated against the flu. Flu vaccination is especially important for people who are at greater risk for complications from flu and those who live with or care for these individuals. Groups of people that are at high risk for flu complications include children younger than 5 years, adults 65 years and older, and pregnant women. Medical conditions such as asthma, chronic lung or heart disease and diabetes can also increase the risk for flu complications.
“Flu vaccine is available at all our health departments in Cherokee, Fannin, Gilmer, Murray, Pickens and Whitfield Counties,” said Gregory. For health department contact information, click on the LOCATIONS tab on the North Georgia Health District website at www.nghd.org.
Flu symptoms may include a fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue, and/or, possibly, vomiting and diarrhea.
People at higher risk for complications from the flu should seek medical care as soon as they begin to feel ill, even if they have been vaccinated. They could benefit from antiviral drugs, that can reduce the risk of experiencing complications and reduce the severity and duration of illness. Antiviral drugs are most effective when given early in the onset of illness.
Stomach viruses, such as Norovirus, are very contagious and can infect anyone. These viruses can be spread to others by an infected person, through contaminated food or water, or by touching contaminated surfaces. These viruses can cause the stomach and/or intestines to become inflamed, which leads to stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting. These symptoms can be serious for some people, especially young children and older adults.
To reduce the spread of influenza and stomach viruses, take everyday preventive actions(https://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/habits/index.htm) to stop spreading the viruses.
- Get a flu shot – this will protect you against the flu virus, which will be especially critical if you are infected with some other virus.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
- Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
- While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them, especially avoiding healthcare facilities and long-term care homes.
- Avoid having children inside healthcare facilities and long-term care homes to protect them from catching viruses and to prevent them from spreading viruses to the people who are there.
- If you are sick with flu-like illness, the CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone for 24 hours without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.)
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu.
For more information about influenza and its prevention, log onto to the CDC website at https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/index.html. Learn more about preventing the spread of stomach viruses at https://www.cdc.gov/norovirus/index.html.