The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) has confirmed three flu-related deaths in South Health District. These are the first confirmed flu-related deaths in the District this flu season; as of January 31, DPH confirmed 37 flu-related deaths throughout Georgia with that number expected to increase. The local deaths were all young to elderly adults.
The H3N2 strain seen this year can be particularly hard on the very young, people over age 65, or those with existing medical conditions, according to Kenneth Lowery, MPH, district epidemiologist. Symptoms vary from person to person, and can include cough, runny nose, sore throat and fever. One of the most pronounced flu symptoms is an overall feeling of achiness and discomfort that comes on quickly.
“The most effective way to prevent the flu is getting your flu vaccine each year,” highlights Dr. William Grow, district health director. “It’s not too late to get your flu vaccine at any of our health departments, local pharmacies or doctors’ offices.”
Frequent and thorough hand washing also will help guard against the flu. Alcohol based gels are the next best thing if there is no access to soap and water. Cover your nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing to help prevent the spread of the flu. Use a tissue or cough or sneeze into the crook of the elbow or arm. Avoid touching your face as flu germs can get into the body through mucus membranes of the nose, mouth and eyes. If you are sick, stay home from school or work. Flu sufferers should be free of a fever without the use of a fever reducer for at least 24 hours before returning to work or school.
According to Lowery, the peak of flu season normally begins in January and runs through late February or early March; however, it’s been known to extend into May some years. It is important to take preventive measures now to minimize the effects of the flu and stay healthy this flu season.
“Our hearts go out to the families that have lost a loved-one. We will not release the county of death or any type of identifying information, other than an age range,” says Courtney Sheeley, communications specialist. “This disease is affecting people statewide…it doesn’t matter where you live. Our message remains the same: everyone 6 months and older should get the flu shot, wash your hands thoroughly and frequently, and stay home if you’re sick to eliminate the spread of the disease.”