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Per the following press release, the Georgia Department of Public Health announced that flu in Georgia has reached epidemic levels. The best protection against the flu is a flu shot, and flu vaccine is still available at North Georgia Health District health departments in Cherokee, Fannin, Gilmer, Murray, Pickens and Whitfield Counties. We urge residents who have not yet received a flu shot to do so immediately and to follow the other guidelines below to prevent getting flu and spreading the flu virus: 

ATLANTA - The state of Georgia is now in the midst of a flu epidemic.  The flu is hitting Georgia harder this year than it has in nearly a decade.  Flu activity is widespread throughout the state and the number of flu related hospitalizations is high.  So far, two adult, flu-related deaths have been reported in Georgia.

"We are seeing some decrease in flu activity, but we are still at epidemic level and the flu is unpredictable," says Patrick O’Neal, M.D., director of the Division of Health Protection, Georgia Department of Public Health. "We are getting reports of more severe flu effects in neighboring states, including the number of deaths.  Peak flu season typically does not happen until late January or early February so we may not have seen the worst yet."  The most recent flu report may also be affected by doctors’ offices being closed for the holidays and people travelling.

Flu symptoms and their intensity can vary person to person.  If you think you have the flu, call or visit your doctor.  They will advise you on the best course of treatment.

It is important to take preventative measures now to minimize the effects of the flu and stay healthy.  It is not too late to get a flu shot!  The single most effective way to prevent the flu is the flu vaccine and there is plenty of vaccine available statewide.  Every healthy individual over the age of 6 months should get a flu vaccine.  The predominant strain of flu circulating in Georgia and around the country is H3N2. This year’s vaccine is a close match making it effective in preventing the flu or minimizing its symptoms and duration. 

Morganton (GA) – A llama at a residence on Elrod Road in Morganton, Georgia tested positive for rabies after biting and spitting at people. 

Four people were in contact with the unvaccinated llama while it was symptomatic and shedding the rabies virus; therefore, Fannin County Environmental Health officials recommended that they all immediately seek medical advice from their healthcare providers and consult with the Georgia Poison Control Center regarding the extent of their exposure. 

Shannon Bradburn, Environmental Health Specialist, received a call from Ocoee Animal Hospital in Blue Ridge on January 4 stating that a llama specimen, which had been sent by a local veterinarian to Athens Diagnostic Laboratory and then to the Georgia Department of Public Health’s Albany Regional Laboratory, was confirmed positive for the rabies virus. 

Bradburn said the veterinarian had been called to the property on Elrod Road on December 28 because the animal had exhibited signs of aggression, including loss of motor skills, biting itself, biting at people and spitting at one of its caretakers. Consequently, the veterinarian euthanized the llama and collected the specimen for the rabies testing that was later performed by the labs. 

Dalton (GA) - The holiday season is a time when many of us set goals for the New Year. Along with the usual resolutions to lose weight, get healthy and spend more time with family, the North Georgia Health District’s Emergency Preparedness Department urges residents to make emergency preparedness a top priority for 2013.

By taking a few simple steps now, you and your family can be prepared for emergencies
that could occur in the upcoming year. logoResolve to Be Ready in 2013
Be informed. Before disaster strikes, be informed of the hazards that could occur in your community and how to respond appropriately. During an emergency, stay informed – have a battery-powered weather radio on hand, and, when possible, listen to your local media. For information on staying informed, visit:

Make a plan. You and your family may not be together when a disaster strikes so it is important to plan in advance. Develop a plan on how each family member will get to a safe place, will contact one another, will get back together and will appropriately react to different types of emergencies. Cell phones can be lifelines after a disaster – be sure you have a solar-powered cell phone charger for each phone. A family emergency plan template can be found at:

Cartoon by Raymond King, District Director of Environmental Health Dalton (GA) – As you lovingly serve roasted turkey, baked ham, delicious casseroles and decadent desserts to family and friends this holiday season, don’t let food-borne illness be one of your secret ingredients.

Festive times are for giving and sharing, but that should never include sharing food-borne illness. Here are some tips from the USDA's Meat and Poultry Hotline (1-888-674-6854) to help you have SAFE holiday festivities.

Safely handle food.
Always wash your hands before and after handling food – especially raw meat and poultry – and keep your kitchen, dishes and utensils clean, as well.

Cook thoroughly. Be sure to cook food thoroughly to safe minimum internal temperatures. To learn more about safe temperatures for various foods, log onto

Use shallow containers. Divide cooked foods into shallow containers to store in the refrigerator or freezer until serving. This encourages rapid, even cooling. Reheat hot foods to 165 °F. 

Follow the two-hour rule. Foods should not sit at room temperature for more than two hours. Discard anything that has been sitting out for two hours or more.

Keep hot foods HOT and cold foods COLD. Hot foods should be held at 140 °F or warmer and cold foods should be held at 40 °F or colder.