While not yet in full force, the flu is still here and the public is warned to take measures to keep up their guard.
Last week the CDC reported that positive influenza tests in the Southeast were up almost 23 percent, and Georgia moved into the “widespread” category for flu. There have been more than 400 hospitalizations and nine confirmed flu-related deaths in the state (as of Jan. 3).
There were 1,383 patients tested for influenza in the last 60 days at Rockdale Medical Center, according to RMC marketing and business manager Sarah Talley Teach.
Of those, Teach said 3.7 percent tested positive for the flu.
“As of right now we have treated roughly the same amount of patients for flu as we did this time last year,” Teach said. “It is important to note that not all patients that have presented with flu-like symptoms received a test.”
The hospital’s quality department should have a better indication of how the flu is affecting patients by the end of January, according to Teach.
“The (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) believes that Georgia has not yet seen the spike in the flu that other states have,” Teach added.
“It’s not too late to get your flu shot,” said Alana Sulka, Director of Epidemiology for the Gwinnett, Newton and Rockdale County Health Departments. “Getting a flu shot is one of the most important things you can do to protect you and your family from the flu.”
Flu typically affects those at high risk, including young children, the elderly, and those with chronic medical conditions. This year one of the circulating flu strains is H1N1, which tends to affect the young and middle-aged adult population. Protection against H1N1 is included in this year’s vaccine.
“In addition to encouraging flu shots in the young, elderly, and individuals with chronic medical conditions, we want to encourage young and middle-aged adults to make sure they are protected, too,” Sulka said. “Flu season normally peaks in January and February, and can last until May. So there is still time to be vaccinated and receive protection.”
Flu vaccines are available at many places, including RMC and all Gwinnett, Newton and Rockdale County Health Department locations (except Lilburn WIC Clinic). Locations and hours are available at www.gnrhealth.com
There are some effective practices the public can take to lower chances of becoming sick, according to Public information officer for the Gwinnett, Newton, and Rockdale Health Departments Karen Shields.
Shields said germs are spreading more, as people stay indoors to avoid the cold. And with that, people are reminded to cough and sneeze in to their elbow, what Shields called, “cough and sneeze etiquette.”
“Sometimes our younger and older people can be susceptible to colds, so using good cough and sneeze etiquette can keep everyone well,” Shields said.
People should always use tissues, throw them away, and wash their hands.
And if you are sick, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone, without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.
Shields also brought up the importance of “eating healthfully,” during this season. She explained how sometimes the cold weather leads to lower motivation to cook and prepare meals.