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Flu epidemic widespread as it sweeps across Georgia
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Flu Map

A flu epidemic has swept across Georgia, with little relief foreseen in the months ahead as the influenza season reaches its peak between December and February 2015, health officials say.

A weekly influenza surveillance report, prepared by the Influenza Division and made available by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), indicates flu (influenza) activity during week 50 (Dec. 7-13) continued to increase in the U.S. As of Dec. 13, the virus outbreak is widespread in Georgia, the CDC confirms.

The CDC reports that Georgia, and its neighbors Alabama and Mississippi, have reached the highest level of the ILI (influenza- like illness) activity scale possible (see map above).

Puerto Rico and 13 states experienced high ILI activity; six states experienced moderate ILI activity; New York City and five states experienced low ILI activity; 26 states experienced minimal ILI activity; and the District of Columbia had insufficient data, the CDC states.

Habersham County Nurse Manager Donna Cisson said Monday the Habersham County Health Department (HCHD) has administered a little over 1,000 flu vaccines since Sept. 1.

Cisson urges those who have yet not received the vaccine to call the HCHD for available times.

If you do have the flu, please stay at home and take care of yourself and when youre out, please wash your hands and cough in your sleeve and Kleenex because the flu is running rampant right now, she said. Get a lot of rest, a lot of fluids and Tamiflu if you can get to a doctor.

The CDC states that Region 4 which includes Alabama, Florida, Geor- gia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee is experiencing elevated proportions of outpatient visits for ILI, with all jurisdictions reporting regional or widespread activity.

The CDC also states Region 4 reported 18.7 percent of respiratory specimens collected last week tested positive for the flu. Cumulative data since Sept. 28 (week 40), says that Region 4 experienced two cases of Influenza A (H1N1 strain), 985 cases of Influenza A (H3 strain), 3,492 cases of Influenza A (subtyping not performed), 800 cases of Influenza B, and four pediatric deaths.

Chet Baker, Family Nurse Practitioner, of Express Care of Habersham, said Friday that the outbreak in 2014 is the worst I can remember in 15 years.

Our daily numbers have doubled, he said, with medical personnel seeing 40-45 patients a day when staff members are used to seeing 20-25.

Weve had to turn people away for the first time,

he said. I know other offices have been slammed, too.

Ive heard of pediatrician offices turning off their phones [in Gainesville], Baker continued. This is what patients have told me. ... Theres more people needing care than in years prior.

Although the CDC re- ports influenza-associated pediatric deaths appear down from 171 in 2012-13, still, 109 deaths were reported from 2013-14.

A total of 11 influenza-associated deaths have been reported during the 2014-15 season from six states (Florida [2], Minnesota [2], North Carolina [2], Nevada [1], Ohio [2], and Texas [2]), the CDC states. During week 50, 6 percent of all deaths reported through the 122 Cities Mortality Reporting System were due to P&I (Pnuemonia and Influenza), the CDC states. This percentage was below the epidemic threshold of 6.7 percent for week 50.

But Georgia doesnt appear to be through the worst of it.

The CDC reports the timing of flu is very unpredictable and can vary from season to season.

Flu activity most commonly peaks in the U.S. between the months of December and February, the CDC states. However, the CDC indicates seasonal flu activity can begin as early as October and continue to occur as late as May.

To prevent yourself and loved ones from contracting the virus, the CDC recommends an annual flu vaccine for those 6 months of age and older.

While there are many different flu viruses, the seasonal flu vaccine is designed to protect against the main flu viruses that research suggests will cause the most illness during the upcoming flu season, the CDC states.

Patients are encouraged to get the flu vaccine as soon as it is made available, ideally by October, the CDC states, before the flu season begins.

The CDC confirms flu vaccines are offered by many doctors offices, clinics, health departments, pharmacies and college health centers, as well as by many employers, and even by some schools.

Visit the HealthMap Vaccine Finder on the CDCs website (cdc.gov) to locate where you can get a flu vaccine.

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