A spike in flu activity last year after Thanksgiving has state public health workers on alert as the holidays approach.
Positive tests for flu are low right now; the typical peak of flu season in Georgia comes in February. But last year, the number of illnesses jumped the week after Thanksgiving. Then it rose dramatically through December and peaked early in the new year.
Positive lab tests for influenza infections are on a similar trajectory so far this year, so the Department of Public Health is watching closely this holiday week.
“It’s impossible to predict what influenza’s going to be like,” said Audrey Martyn, the influenza surveillance coordinator at the Georgia Department of Public Health. “But we know that a lot of people are getting together, [and] influenza is transmitted person to person.
“So if you’re around someone who’s infectious—within six feet—and a little droplet gets on you or you touch something and then touch your mouth, you can become infected,” she said.
Martyn said the best way to prevent another spike in flu is for Georgians to get a flu shot. She said a sick person may not even know they’re contagious.
“Someone can become infectious with influenza even before they’re sick. So they can be infectious one day before they’re even showing symptoms,” Martyn said.
About 10 percent of the samples tested at state and federal labs were positive for the flu November 10 - 16. Doctors don’t report every positive flu test, so officials can’t say exactly how many flu cases they’ve see so far. For instance, they may use a quick-response test in the office to see if a patient has the flu.
Hospital officials in Augusta reported an influenza flare-up in early September.
Martyn said flu activity so far is spread evenly across the state.