Last year, Georgia experienced one of the worst flu seasons in recent history. This year, even before the typical peak of flu season, the CDC reports that Georgia is already experiencing high and widespread numbers of flu-like illnesses and confirmed cases.
Don’t fall victim to the flu, North Georgians – vaccinate before it’s too late!
North Georgia Health District officials urge residents to vaccinate before the peak of flu season, which usually begins in this region by mid-January and lasts through the end of February, possibly longer. It takes a couple of weeks for flu vaccine to reach its full protective potential within the body, so now is a critical time to get the shot for those who still need one.
Influenza can be a serious disease that leads to hospitalization and sometimes death. Regardless of race, age, gender or ethnicity, anyone can get sick from the flu. Those especially at risk are adults 65 years of age and older, children younger than 5, pregnant women, and people with certain chronic diseases such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease or other long-term medical conditions.
Even healthy children and adults can get very sick from the flu, but flu vaccine is the best protection.
Both regular quadrivalent flu vaccine, which protects against the four strains of flu virus that are most commonly circulating this season, and high dose flu vaccine for people age 65 and older are available at local health departments in Cherokee, Fannin, Gilmer, Murray, Pickens and Whitfield Counties (click on the name of your county for health department contact information). The health departments accept several forms of health insurance as well as Medicare and Medicaid so that vaccination is cost-free to the client. For people without healthcare coverage, regular flu vaccine is $25 and high dose flu vaccine is $65.
Symptoms of seasonal flu may include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headache, tiredness and/or muscle aches. People who might have flu –particularly if they are in the groups listed above at risk for severe disease and complications – should seek medical care and start antiviral medication as soon as possible.
In addition to a flu shot, there are simple things anyone can do to help prevent getting or spreading the flu:
- Wash your hands and your children’s hands frequently, especially after contact with other people.
- Use a tissue to cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze and dispose of the tissue afterward, or cough or sneeze into your sleeve if no tissues are available.
- Clean your hands after you cough or sneeze, even if you use a tissue. Use soap and water or an alcohol-based hand cleaner if soap and water are not available and your hands are not visibly dirty.
- When possible, stay home if you get the flu.
- Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
But most importantly, before flu season peaks, people should make it a top priority to go to or call their county health department or health care provider to be vaccinated. For more information on immunization, visit the Georgia Department of Public Health website at http://dph.georgia.gov/influenza-what-you-need-know.