While the flu level is still considered moderate in Georgia, state health officials say they’ve seen significant increases in flu activity statewide and are encouraging people to combat those symptoms and get a flu shot.
“It’s not too late to get a flu shot,” said Logan Boss, spokesman for the Northwest Georgia Public Health District, which includes Walker and Catoosa counties.
The Georgia Department of Public Health says the flu is hitting the state harder and earlier than in previous years. They say the early arrival of the H3N2 flu could mean a severe flu season.
Boss said the rise of ILIs, or influenza-like illnesses, in large numbers across the state has caused the group to make the statement but that the full impact of a flu season can’t be measured until after it has passed.
“I always tell people that influenza is one of the most unpredictable illnesses out there,” Boss said. “Last year we had a relatively mild flu season that didn’t peak until late, like around February.”
Boss said a typical flu season in Georgia begins in October with its peak coming in late January and lasts until April or May.
“It’s a little earlier this year, but it’s not unusual,” Boss said. “And just because it starts earlier doesn’t mean it will be worse than normal.”
Health officials say everyone older than 6 months who is healthy should get the vaccine, which is the best way to avoid the flu.
“Because the flu vaccine so closely matches this year’s flu strains, it just makes good common sense to get it,” said Dr. J. Patrick O’Neal, director of health protection with the Georgia Department of Public Health.
The state department of public health has stated that some Georgia school systems are reporting high absenteeism because of flu-like illnesses.
Boss said we haven’t had any school closings or clusters of ILIs in northwest Georgia.