Valdosta Daily Times

December 6, 2012

The flu strikes early in Georgia

Brittany D. McClure
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — The flu has arrived in Georgia and according to health officials, it's arrived early and is already overstaying its welcome.

“It is earlier in Georgia than it has been in recent years,” said Nancy Nydam with the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH).

The DPH collects flu activity from two sources: Reporting physicians and reports from emergency room's who have received patients with flu-like symptoms.

“There are increased numbers,” said Nydam.

While flu levels are still considered to be moderate, the DPH is reporting significant increases in flu activity statewide that is "hitting harder this year than in previous years", stated a press release from the DPH. Some Georgia school systems are even reporting high

absenteeism due to flu-like illnesses.

“When you’re in a holiday season . . . you have gatherings of family and friends,” said Nydam.

Get togethers and an increased number of people shopping tends to lend

itself to an early onset of the flu, in particular, the early onset of H3N2 as an indicator of a potentially sever flu season.

According to the DPH the single most effective way to prevent the flu is the flu vaccine as this year's flu vaccine closely matches the strains of flu circulating in Georgia making it effective in preventing the flu or minimizing the symptoms.

The Centers for Disease Control reports that flu vaccines are designed to protect against three influenza viruses that experts predict will be the most common during the upcoming season.

The 2012-2013 influenza vaccine was made to counteract and prevent the A/California/7/2009 (H1N1)-like virus, the A/Victoria/361/2011 (H3N2)-like virus, and the B/Wisconsin/1/2010-like virus.

“In Georgia, we don't have a lot of detailed data about subtypes since many are not subtyped further than just A or B (for example, many of our flu lab reports are from rapid tests which just say A or B and not type), but we would expect similar distribution of mostly A H3N2 with some B,” said state edpidemiologist Dr. Cherie Drenzek, DVM.

This season, manufacturers have projected that they will need as much as 149 million doses of flu vaccine.

According to the CDC, during 2011-2012, 132.8 million doses of flu vaccine were distributed in the United States, which demonstrates that manufacturers and health officials alike are preparing for a more wide-spread flu season.

The DPH recommends that every healthy individual over the age of 6 months should get a flu vaccine.

Other things you can do to protect yourself and others against the flu include frequent and thorough hand washing, covering the nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing, using a tissue or the crook of the elbow or the arm to cover mouth when sneezing and avoid touching your face.

Symptoms of the flu include cough, runny nose, sore throat and fever. The DPH recommends that if you are sick, stay home from school and work. Flu sufferers should be free of a fever without the use of a fever reducer (such as Tylenol) for at least 24 hours before returning to work or school.

Health officials predict that based on the early arrival of the flu, this flu season could be a long one. Peak flu season is usually the end of January and runs through late February or early March.

The DPH urges all to take preventative measures now to minimize the effects of the flu and stay healthy this flu season.