The flu season is upon us and health officials throughout Floyd County and Northwest Georgia are urging people to take necessary precautions against catching the contagious virus.
Dr. Jonathan Thompson of Redmond Regional Medical Center said an influx of patients with flu-like symptoms have been flooding the hospital.
“We’re definitely into the flu season here,” said Thompson. “We’ve had a lot of positive tests and it’s kind of to the point of where if a person looks like they have the flu, we just treat them without testing them.”
He encouraged locals to get the flu vaccination as soon as possible. Thompson also said that for adults who don’t have a variety of existing health problems but who think they might have the flu, over-the-counter medicines along with lots of fluids and rest can help beat the illness. However, if the symptoms are at their worst, it’s best to receive treatment within the first 24 hours rather than waiting.
Floyd County Medical Center Spokesman Bill Fortenberry said in urgent care and primary care, there were 217 reported flu cases in November, and that jumped to a staggering 708 cases in December. Likewise, Brenda Bowen, a spokeswoman for Harbin Clinic, said that they too have seen an increase in flu cases recently.
This is the earliest regular flu season in almost a decade and it features a predominant influenza strain generally associated with more severe flu seasons.
“This year’s vaccine looks to be a good match with this year’s influenza strains, including the H3N2 strain we’re seeing circulating in the community,” said Northwest Georgia Public Health’s Dr. Wade Sellers, adding that this particular influenza strain can be associated with more severe flu seasons.
“In the past, what we’ve seen is that H3-predominant years tend to be the worst. The increasing flu activity we’re seeing should be a wake-up call,” Sellers said. “For anyone who has put off vaccination, it’s time to get your flu vaccine now.”
Logan Boss, spokesman for Northwest Georgia Public Health, emphasized that it’s not too late to get immunized.
“There’s plenty of flu vaccine widely available this season,” Boss said, “and two types — the traditional ‘flu shot’ and the nasal-spray vaccine. You’ll need to check with your health care provider to determine which is recommended for you. Some people should not get the flu vaccine, and your provider can help you determine if you’re in this small group.”
Boss said influenza immunization is recommended for everyone older than 6 months of age and especially for people at high risk for developing flu-related complications. Those include children younger than 5, especially those younger than 2, adults 65 years of age and older, pregnant women and people with certain medical conditions including asthma, heart disease and chronic lung disease.
“It’s important for household contacts and caregivers of children younger than 5 years to be vaccinated,” Boss said, “but especially so for those of children younger than 6 months, since infants less than 6 months of age can’t be immunized. Get immunized yourself and, in doing so, wrap that blanket of protection around the young child.”
People who have the flu often feel some or all of these signs and symptoms:
- Fever or feeling feverish/chills, although it’s important to note not everyone with flu will have a fever
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle or body aches
- Fatigue (very tired)
- Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.
Parents, do not hesitate to contact your child’s doctor if you have concerns about the flu, questions about your child’s symptoms or if you think your child should receive the flu vaccine. The doctor will be able to answer your questions and go over information specific for your child’s age as well as any pre-existing conditions he or she may have.
If a child displays symptoms such as a bluish skin color, not drinking enough to maintain hydration, rapid or labored breathing, not waking up or irritability to the point that he or she doesn’t want to be held, they should see a pediatrician immediately.
Also, consult a doctor if your child’s flu symptoms improve but then return and include a fever and worse cough.
For more information about seasonal flu visit http://www.cdc.gov/flu.