Get Vaccinated Now Before Flu Season Peaks
North Georgia – Last year, Georgia experienced one of the worst flu seasons in recent history. This year, even before the typical peak of flu season, the CDC reports that Georgia is already experiencing high and widespread numbers of flu-like illnesses and confirmed cases.
North Georgia Health District officials urge residents to vaccinate before the peak of flu season, which usually begins in this region by mid-January and lasts through the end of February, possibly longer. It takes a couple of weeks for flu vaccine to reach its full protective potential within the body, so now is a critical time to get the shot for those who still need one.
Influenza can be a serious disease that leads to hospitalization and sometimes death. Regardless of race, age, gender or ethnicity, anyone can get sick from the flu. Those especially at risk are adults 65 years of age and older, children younger than 5, pregnant women, and people with certain chronic diseases such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease or other long-term medical conditions.
Even healthy children and adults can get very sick from the flu, but flu vaccine is the best protection.
Both regular quadrivalent flu vaccine, which protects against the four strains of flu virus that are most commonly circulating this season, and high dose flu vaccine for people age 65 and older are available at local health departments in Cherokee, Fannin, Gilmer, Murray, Pickens and Whitfield Counties (contact information for each of these health departments is at www.nghd.org). The health departments accept several forms of health insurance as well as Medicare and Medicaid so that vaccination is cost-free to the client. For people without healthcare coverage, regular flu vaccine is $25 and high dose flu vaccine is $65.
Symptoms of seasonal flu may include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headache, tiredness and/or muscle aches. People who might have flu – particularly if they are in the groups listed above at risk for severe disease and complications – should seek medical care and start antiviral medication as soon as possible.
In addition to a flu shot, there are simple things anyone can do to help prevent getting or spreading the flu:
- Wash your hands and your children’s hands frequently, especially after contact with other people.
- Use a tissue to cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze and dispose of the tissue afterward, or cough or sneeze into your sleeve if no tissues are available.
- Clean your hands after you cough or sneeze, even if you use a tissue. Use soap and water or an alcohol-based hand cleaner if soap and water are not available and your hands are not visibly dirty.
- When possible, stay home if you get the flu.
- Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
But most importantly, before flu season peaks, people should make it a top priority to go to or call their county health department or health care provider to be vaccinated. For more information on immunization, visit the Georgia Department of Public Health website at http://dph.georgia.gov/influenza-what-you-need-know.
ATLANTA – If you have not gotten a flu shot yet, do not wait any longer! Flu is widespread in Georgia, and more than 300 individuals have been hospitalized with flu-related illness. The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) has confirmed four flu-related deaths so far, but that number is expected to increase.
The predominant strain of flu circulating in Georgia and around the country is influenza A (H3N2). This strain can be particularly hard on the very young, people over age 65, or those with existing medical conditions. H3N2 is one of the strains contained in this year’s flu vaccine along with two or three others, depending on the vaccine.
“It is not too late to get a flu shot,” says J. Patrick O’Neal, M.D., DPH commissioner. “Every individual over the age of six months should get a flu vaccine – not just for their own protection, but to protect others around them who may be more vulnerable to the flu and its complications.”
Flu symptoms and their intensity can vary from person to person, and can include fever, cough,
sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. If you think you have
the flu, call or visit your doctor.
In some cases, healthcare providers may recommend the use of antivirals such as Tamiflu or Relenza. Antiviral drugs are prescription medicines (pills, liquid, an inhaled powder or an intravenous solution) that fight against the flu in your body. Antiviral drugs work best for treatment when they are started within two days of getting sick. Antivirals are used to treat those at high-risk for flu complications – young children, the elderly, individuals with underlying medical conditions and women who are pregnant. Most otherwise-healthy people who get the flu, however, do not need to be treated with antiviral drugs.
There are other things you can do to help prevent the spread of flu – tried and true measures your mother taught you:
• Frequent and thorough hand-washing with soap and warm water.
Alcohol based gels are the next best thing if you don’t have access
to soap and water;
• Cover your 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 your elbow or arm;
• Avoid touching your face as flu germs can get into the body through
mucus membranes of the nose, mouth and eyes; and
• If you are sick, stay home from school or work. Flu sufferers should
be free of a fever, without the use of a fever reducer, for at least 24
hours before returning to school or work.
If you are caring for a sick individual at home, keep them away from common areas of the house and other people as much as possible. 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. Thoroughly clean linens, eating utensils, and dishes used by the sick person before re-using. To learn more about influenza, log on to www.flu.gov.
About the Georgia Department of Public Health:
The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) is the lead agency in preventing disease, injury and disability, promoting health and well-being, and preparing for and responding to disasters. DPH’s main functions include: Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, Maternal and Child Health, Infectious Disease and Immunization, Environmental Health, Epidemiology, Emergency Preparedness and Response, Emergency Medical Services, Pharmacy, Nursing, Volunteer Health Care, the Office of Health Equity, Vital Records, and the State Public Health Laboratory.
For more information about DPH, visit www.dph.ga.gov.