By Elaine Owen, Editor
Georgia is one of 30 states where the flu is now considered widespread, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Friday, Jan. 11, the CDC reported the first week of 2019, three children died of flu-related causes nationwide and five deaths have been reported to date in Georgia. (Numbers provided by the CDC are current as of Jan. 5 for the 2018-19 flu season.)
Flu activity is “high” across the state, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health’s latest flu surveillance report. The virus has killed five people so far this flu season; the agency’s latest influenza report, which covers Dec. 30 – Jan. 5, says the most recent victim was an adult between the age of 50 and 64.
Flu has been linked to the deaths of three adults over the age of 65 and one child between the age of 5 and 17 since Georgia started tracking flu cases at the end of September.
The H1N1 (swine flu) strain is predominant in most of the country, while the H3N2 strain is predominant in the Southeast. FDA Director Scott Gottlieb said in a statement that the H1N1 strain tends to peak late in the flu season. However, Gottlieb said the flu vaccine is “generally good” against H1N1 strains and has a 60 percent effectiveness or more. Gottlieb said it’s not too late to get vaccinated.
According to the CDC, the flu can cause serious illness, hospitalization and death. The groups most at risk are older adults, very young children, pregnant women and those with certain chronic medical conditions.
Watch for these symptoms of the flu:
● Fever or feeling feverish/chills (not everyone with flu will have a fever)
● Sore throat
● Runny or stuffy nose
● Muscle or body aches
Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea (more common in children than adults)
The CDC says that during most seasons, about 80 percent of children who die are not vaccinated. The agency cited a study that says the vaccine reduces the risk of death among healthy children by 65 percent and among children with a high-risk condition by 50 percent.
It takes about two weeks for the vaccine to provide protection against the flu. Find more information about the vaccine at https://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/keyfacts.htm