Georgia health officials say the state is battling a flu epidemic that may be the worst in a decade. What comes next is uncertain....

Georgia health officials say the state is battling a flu epidemic that may be the worst in a decade.

What comes next is uncertain. There’s evidence that flu activity is decreasing, the state said Friday. Still, Dr. Patrick O’Neal of the Georgia Department of Public Health said in a statement, “We may not have seen the worst yet.’’

In any case, it’s not too late to get a flu shot. Health officials are emphatic about that.

Though not perfect, the vaccine is considered good protection against getting really sick from the flu, according to an Associated Press article.

The state reports two deaths associated with the flu, one in the Athens area and another in nearby Barrow County.

Nationally, flu was widespread in 47 states last week, up from 41 the week before, the CDC said Friday. The only states not reporting widespread flu were California, Mississippi and Hawaii.

Among reports from around Georgia:

* Dr. Gary Godlewski, an emergency room physician at Coliseum Medical Center and Coliseum Northside Hospital in Macon, told the Macon Telegraph that this year’s flu season may become one of the busiest he’s seen in more than two decades.

He estimated that influenza, and influenza-like illnesses have boosted emergency room traffic by 25 percent.

* A Carrollton physician calls the current outbreak “the worst in recent years.”

“This often happens when a new strain of influenza emerges,” Dr. Laura Larson, an infectious diseases specialist and medical director of Infection Prevention for Tanner Health System, told the Carrollton Times-Georgian. “Few have been exposed to the new strain, so almost no one has immunity to it, and that’s why more people get sick from it.”

* Flu activity is waning in southwest Georgia, the Albany Herald reported.

“Flu cycles go up and down,” said Dr. Jacqueline Grant, director of the Southwest Public Health District. “Looking at the activity, it [appears] like it is going down.

“I can’t say that we have reached our absolute peak,” she cautioned.

* In Augusta, Medical College of Georgia, Doctors and University hospitals reported heavier caseloads of flu in November and December, but less recently, the Augusta Chronicle reported.

“It hit hard and fast early on,” said Dr. Mark Newton, the medical director of the Emergency Room at Doctors Hospital. “Now it has slowed down a little bit here.”

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Andy Miller

Andy Miller is editor and CEO of Georgia Health News

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