Georgia’s number of influenza-related deaths has now reached 37, and state health officials say that the brutal flu season may not yet have peaked.
The deaths, up from the 25 total reported Friday, include a child who was between ages 12 and 18, Public Health officials said Wednesday. That case is the first confirmed pediatric flu death this season in Georgia.
Citing privacy rules, the agency did not give further details about the child death. (The Newnan Times-Herald on Wednesday identified a local teenager as the pediatric fatality.)
The overall flu death toll may approach the 58 that the state recorded in 2009, said Cherie Drenzek, state epidemiologist. “It looks like we’re approaching our peak’’ in terms of flu activity, she said, but added that it’s likely that there are several more weeks of flu ahead.
“We’re seeing an increase in hospitalizations in metro Atlanta,’’ she said.
Emergency departments across Georgia have reported an unusually high number of patients, many of whom have the flu. Atlanta’s Grady Memorial Hospital has added a temporary mobile ER to handle its patient overflow.
The flu is a serious problem, “but is not a disease that people should panic about,’’ said Dr. Patrick O’Neal, the state’s Public Health commissioner. He said the number of pediatric cases has not been as high as in previous years.
The predominant flu strain this season, H3N2, typically leads to more illnesses and deaths. Nationally, flu activity has remained widespread in 49 states from coast to coast for three weeks in a row.
Public Health is still recommending people get a flu shot. O’Neal said Georgians should call ahead to a doctor’s office, pharmacy or Public Health to see if they have availability of vaccine. WABE reported that some pharmacies are running low on flu shots.
O’Neal said there are sporadic shortages of antiviral drugs such as Tamiflu for flu patients, but that “there’s not a statewide shortage.’’
Among other Public Health recommendations:
** Stay home from work or school if you’re sick, so you don’t spread the flu. Before returning to school or work, flu sufferers should be free of fever (without the use of a fever reducer) for at least 24 hours.
** If your doctor prescribes antivirals, take them.
** If you’re not sick, stay away from people who are.
** Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently to help guard against the flu. If soap and water are not accessible, the next best thing is to use alcohol-based sanitizing gels.
** Cover the nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing to help prevent the spread of the flu. Use a tissue, or cough or sneeze into the crook of the elbow or arm.
** Avoid touching your face, as flu germs can get into the body through mucus membranes of the nose, mouth and eyes.