Valdosta Daily Times

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January 15, 2014

Three flu-related deaths confirmed in south Ga.

VALDOSTA — Two additional South Georgia flu deaths announced last week involved a second death in Lowndes County and one in Cook County.

“There have been two deaths in Lowndes County and one in Cook County,” said Courtney D. Sheeley, South Health District’s risk communicator and public information officer.

These three flu deaths have been confirmed since late December in the South Health District’s 10-county jurisdiction, which covers Ben Hill, Berrien, Brooks, Cook, Echols, Irwin, Lanier, Lowndes, Tift, and Turner.

“For (state Department of Public Health) to confirm a death as flu-related, they get the medical records of the deceased that a doctor suspects died from complications of influenza,” Sheeley said. “The epidemiologist that makes this determination at the state takes into account each patient’s medical history before confirming as a flu-related death.”

The district epidemiologist investigates flu clusters and other reportable clusters.

“Single influenza deaths are reported but contact investigation is not conducted,” Sheeley said. “Our epidemiologist works closely with the Infection Control Practitioners in the local hospitals as part of her normal surveillance routine. Normally, the ICPs alert her to possible cases to make us aware and the state makes the determination beyond that.”

As of late last week, Georgia had reported 19 deaths statewide this flu season.

South Health District advises:

• Frequent and thorough hand washing also will help guard against the flu.

• Alcohol based gels are the next best thing if there is no access to soap and water.

• Cover the 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 the elbow or arm.

• Avoid touching your face as flu germs can get into the body through mucus membranes of  the nose, mouth and  eyes.

• 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 work or school.

• Symptoms of the flu include cough, runny nose, sore throat and fever.

• One of the most pronounced flu symptoms is an overall feeling of achiness and discomfort that comes on quickly.

• Peak flu season is usually the end of January and runs through late February or early March.

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