The flu has hit early and hard this season in Georgia. Nationwide, 41 out of 50 states are reporting widespread flu.
Flu season doesn't typically begin until February. According to Google Flu Trends, the current flu season in the Atlanta-area is "intense."
Anecdotally, one particular strain of flu going around metro-Atlanta seems to be rougher than usual: it lasts five to eight days, and has symptoms that include a high fever (between 101 and 105 in both adults and children), aches and pain in the legs and hips, a cough, sore throat and fatigue, followed by a few days of what seems like a cold, with swollen lymph nodes.
“While we can’t say for certain how severe this season will be, we can say that a lot of people are getting sick with influenza and we are getting reports of severe illness and hospitalizations,” said Dr. Joe Bresee, who is Chief of the Epidemiology and Prevention Branch in CDC’s Influenza Division. “Reports of influenza-like-illness (ILI) are nearing what have been peak levels during moderately severe seasons."
Another bug that's going around is a 24-hour stomach bug, which includes vomiting and diarrhea.
If you feel that you're coming down with these symptoms, you can take over-the-counter medications like Relenza, or Tylenol Cold and Flu. A heating pad for the aches and pains does wonders, as does a humidifier for the cough. And don't forget to drink lots of water or tea.
Do what you can to lower that fever too, including cool baths, an over-the-counter fever reducer and cool rag.
It spreads via infected people coughing, sneezing or talking, though people can also get infected by touching something with the flu virus on it before touching their mouth, eyes or nose. If you don't feel good, stay home, because it's very contagious.
While around 5.5 percent of all doctor's visits in Georgia are for the flu-like symptoms, hospitals recommend that you do not go to the emergency room for them.
Fulton County Health Services continues to recommend influenza vaccination for people who have not yet been vaccinated this season and antiviral treatment as early as possible for people who get sick and are at high risk of flu complications.
Fulton County has six locations where residents can receive the flu vaccination. Citizens can visit one of these six health centers for the flu vaccine:
- Adamsville Regional Health Center-3700 Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. SW, Atlanta, 404-613-4215
- College Park Regional Health Center-1920 John E. Wesley Ave., College Park, 404-765-4155
- Lakewood Health Center - 1853 Jonesboro Rd., SE, Atlanta, 404-624-0626
- Neighborhood Union Health Center - 186 Sunset Ave., Atlanta, 404-612-4665
- Center for Health and Rehabilitation - 265 Boulevard, NE, Atlanta, 404-612-5835
- North Fulton Regional Health Center - 3155 Royal Drive, Alpharetta, 404-332-1834
Vaccines are available from 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. through the Fulton County Department of Health and Wellness.
Residents can get the flu shot or the nasal mist (age 2 to 49 years) for $25. Visa and MasterCard (credit and debit), Medicaid, Cigna, United Health Care and cash are accepted forms of payment.
Fulton officials are warning citizens that people who do not get a flu vaccine are taking two significant risks - one, they are placing themselves at risk for influenza, including a potentially long and serious illness; and two, placing others, especially children ages 6 months and older, adults ages 50 and older and persons with chronic medical conditions at risk to develop serious complications. Fulton County Health Services encourages every healthy individual over the age of 6 months to get the flu vaccine.
Flu shots are an inactivated vaccine made from killed virus, which means it’s impossible to get the flu from the vaccine, according to Dr. Angela Rasmussen, an infectious disease expert.
There are currently three flu shots being produced in the U.S.: the regular (intramuscular) seasonal flu shot, a high-dose vaccine for people 65 and older, and an intradermal (injected into the skin) vaccine for people ages 18 to 64.
In addition, a nasal-spray flu vaccine made with live, weakened flu viruses (which also do not cause the flu) is available to healthy people ages 2 to 49-years-old, except pregnant women.
The most common side effect from a flu shot is soreness at the injection site.
Patch reached out to Gwinnett Medical Center for their top tips on how to get through this intense flu season. Here's what Eve Early, manager of Infection Control at the hospital, recommended:
- Take time to get the flu vaccine. October to March is the official flu season. Everyone 6 months and older is encouraged to be vaccinated. Call ahead to check since shortages have been reported.
- Be alert to flu-like symptoms, such as coughing, sore throat, aches and fever. Stay home if you experience any of these symptoms. It’s especially important to not visit the hospital.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it. If a tissue isn’t available, use the crease of your elbow to cover your mouth.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
- Wear a mask if you have the cold or flu to help prevent the spread.
Do you have your own tips for surviving flu season? Tell us in the comments section below.