Unfortunately, this year the H3N2 flu strain has arrived well ahead of Christmas and is taking its toll.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta reported this week that “flu activity” has increased across the nation over the last two weeks.
Flu levels in Georgia have been considered moderate, according to the CDC, compared to high levels reported in nearby states like Alabama and Tennessee.
Nonetheless, health officials recommend Georgians take precautions.
“We do know that it is flu season,” said Logan Boss, public information officer for the Northwest Georgia Public Health Department. “(Luckily) the flu vaccine this year is a match for this type of flu. The shots should provide good protection against the flu.”
Individual cases of flu are not reported to health officials like some other illnesses such as the West Nile Virus, so an exact count of those stricken locally was not available, Boss said.
However, certain health care providers do share their information with the CDC and once a baseline of those suffering from “influenza like illness” is surpassed, the organization declares flu season.
The CDC reported that this is the earliest time since 2003-2004 that the baseline has been surpassed.
The South-Central and Southeast areas of the United States have been hit the hardest, according to the CDC.
Upwards of 200,000 people are hospitalized yearly with the flu and thousands die during a severe season, according to CDC numbers.
Though the flu has arrived earlier than it has in the past, Boss said it is an illness that abides by no timetable.
“Flu is one of our most unpredictable illnesses,” he said. “It gets here when it decides to get here, but it’s not too late to get the vaccine.”
Symptoms of the flu include muscle aches, fatigue, runny nose, headaches, sore throat and cough, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health
The department of public health encourages everyone over of the age of 6 to be vaccinated.
They especially encourage those 50 and older to get the vaccine.
The vaccine is available in a variety of locations, from health departments to some pharmacies.
The Georgia Department of Public Health also recommends washing hands frequently to help ward off the flu.
For those with flu, the department of public health recommends drinking plenty of water to avoid dehydration, avoiding alcohol and tobacco and not waiting to see a doctor.
For more information about this year’s flu season, visit: www.cdc.gov/flu.