MOULTRIE, Ga. – Colquitt Regional Medical Center officials and physicians are urging members of the public to get their flu shot as there has been an early increase in flu cases.
“Overall, there has been a slow and steady increase in flu cases over the last month,” said Colquitt Regional President and CEO Jim Matney. “This year, more than ever, it is crucial for people to receive their flu shots and take the proper measures to decrease their chances of contracting the flu, especially those who are considered ‘at-risk’ for both the flu and COVID-19.”
Since Aug. 31, there has been a total of 101 positive flu cases reported at Colquitt Regional and some Sterling Physician Group clinics, the hospital said in a press release.
During the month of September and the first two weeks of October, the Emergency Department saw 87 confirmed cases of the flu. That is more than double the 41 cases it saw during the same time period in 2019.
The most recent numbers reported on Oct. 12 show that the weekly number of positive cases increased almost threefold from the first week in September. During the week of Oct. 5-11, 26 cases were confirmed with two of those also being COVID-positive.
From Sept. 28 to Oct. 4, there were 19 confirmed flu cases, and four of those cases were also COVID positive. There were 10 cases the last week of September, preceded by 17 cases the third week, 20 cases the second week, and nine cases the first week.
Out of the total 101 cases since Aug. 31, 47 of the cases occurred in those 0-17 years of age, 42 cases in those 18-64 years, and 12 cases in those 65 years or older.
Because of COVID-19, health professionals are pointing out the importance of people receiving their flu shots this year.
“Because of the ongoing pandemic, this flu season will be like none we have ever experienced,” said Sterling Physician Group pulmonologist and Colquitt Regional Chief Medical Officer Michael Brown, MD. “While the effect of having both viruses at the same time is not known at this point, the potential impact on your immune system could be extremely serious. Even the contraction of one of these viruses means that your immune system will be more vulnerable and susceptible to other illnesses, so don’t take any unnecessary risks. Be prepared.”
According to the CDC, everyone six months or older should receive a yearly flu vaccine.
Sterling Physician Group is offering flu shots at the following clinics with no appointment needed: Sterling Group Primary Care and Sterling Group Norman Park Family Medicine Clinic. Other clinics offering flu shots with an appointment are Sterling Group Kirk Clinic, Georgia South Family Medicine Residency Center, and Sterling Group Internal Medicine.
Because of the similarity in symptoms, telling the flu apart from COVID-19 can be difficult, the hospital press release said. Either virus may result in fever, dry cough, aches, and/or chills.
Those who are showing symptoms of either virus should stay home to recover unless medical attention is needed. For those experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, testing is still available at Colquitt Regional (doctor’s order required) and the Colquitt County Health Department (free testing, no doctor’s order needed).
“The best defense against both COVID-19 and the flu is to wear a mask, practice proper hand hygiene, social distance, and to stay home if you are sick,” said Matney. “Because we have already become accustomed to these safety measures we are in a good position to help decrease transmission of the flu this season, along with COVID-19.”
Sterling Virtual Care is still being offered to patients as an alternative to visiting their doctor’s offices. Those who would like to schedule a virtual visit should contact their doctor’s office and will be given instructions. For more information, please call the Colquitt Regional Physician Referral Line at 229-891-9362.