Hospitals across the state are seeing an uptick in flu cases, and public health officials say the illness has now become widespread in Georgia.
Yet compared with past flu seasons, this one appears relatively mild. And it’s spiking much later than those of previous years.
Though flu season can last into April or even May, it has peaked in Georgia in late December or early January in the past several years. This season’s late peak is a nationwide phenomenon, Nancy Nydam, a spokeswoman for the state’s Department of Public Health, said Monday.
Georgia is one of 14 states reporting high flu activity currently.
Still, the state statistics show that we’ve had a relatively mild flu season this year.
Nydam said that at this point last year, there had been 1,223 flu-related hospitalizations in metro Atlanta. There have been 256 this year.
And at this time last year, Public Health had reported 27 flu-related deaths statewide. This year the death toll is five, with two coming during the week of March 6.
Jacqueline Jenkins, epidemiologist with the Southwest Public Health District, said there have been clusters of flu-like illness in elementary schools in Dougherty County as well as other school districts, the Albany Herald reported. Hospitalizations within the 14-county public health district have doubled — possibly tripled — since the December and January time frame, Jenkins told the Herald.
“It started out slow, but has really picked up,” she said.
The Georgia Hospital Association said several Georgia hospitals and health systems have reported a significant increase in influenza in the last two to three weeks. “The responses show that the virus is impacting all areas of the state,’’ said Kevin Bloye, a GHA vice president.
Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta told GHN that its emergency department has seen a slight increase in suspected cases, but overall it has been a mild flu season.
Public Health emphasized that it is not too late to get a flu shot.
Everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu vaccination every season, Nydam said. Influenza A (H1H1) has been the predominant strain of the flu active recently.
“The good news is that H1N1 is included in this year’s flu vaccine, so for those who have not yet been vaccinated, they should get a flu shot now,’’ Nydam said.
In addition, the antiviral drugs recommended by the CDC this year have worked very well in treating influenza, she said.