Georgia health officials are monitoring more flu cases this season than in the last three years. Some urgent care clinics are flooded with flu patients.
Dr. Patrick O’Neal with the State Department of Public Health, says there’s a high incidence of flu being reported in more than half of Georgia’s 18 health districts.
He says urban areas and nursing homes are being hit particularly hard.
“This has, across the country, been circulation of a particularly bad strain of H3N2 virus. So we were expecting a fairly high flu season this year.” O'Neal says.
He says other states are seeing a higher number of flu deaths than usual. But he says only one elderly Georgia resident has died of the flu so far this season.
“ Although we’ve had widespread flu, I’m not convinced that we’ve yet seen the peak. We may actually see more of a peak in January or February. I’m not going to be comfortable saying that we’re going to get away with a low death rate at this point in time. But so far the death rate does not raise any red flags.” says O'Neal.
Dr. Jerry Williams, owner of four urgent care clinics in Savannah, says they didn’t see a case of the flu last season until March. This season his clinics have had well over 100 flu patients so far. . He says that’s more than they had for the entire season last year.
Last week alone, 36 people were hospitalized with the flu in metro Atlanta.
O’Neal says there’s still time to get a vaccinated since flu season can last into April.
“Because of the fact that the flu season will run generally throughout the cooler months. It’s wise if one has not received the flu shot or flu immunization to go ahead and consider getting it now.” he says.
O’Neal says the flu shot appears to offer strong protection this year. But Dr. Williams says three of the seven flu patients he saw on Christmas Day had already received a flu shot well in advance of getting sick.
To prevent getting or spreading the flu, doctors recommend regularly washing your hands and covering your mouth with your elbow when you cough or sneeze. And if you get sick, stay home.