With Georgia taking the brunt of early flu illnesses seen throughout the nation (according to the Centers for Disease Control), local health officials are reiterating the need to get vaccinated now.
Figures recently released by the CDC show Georgia flu cases appearing at more than twice the national level. Pickens Health Department Manager Sandy Singleton says it’s not too late to get vaccinated as the flu season usually peaks in January and February with some cases seen on into the spring. Singleton said the number of cases appearing now in Georgia may not indicate a tough year for flu here but could mean an earlier one. According to the CDC, flu activity across the nation is relatively low, except “high activity” in Georgia.
“We need to get the word out that it’s not too late to get vaccinated,” Singleton said. “So far it’s been pretty slow here with vaccinations, but I don’t know if that’s because of low vaccination rates or the widespread availability of the vaccine.”
The CDC recommends everyone age 6 months and older get vaccinated each year for influenza. The new vaccine protects against the 2009 H1N1 virus that caused so much illness last season and two other viruses (an H3N2 virus and an influenza B virus). Singleton said it takes approximately two weeks for the vaccine to start taking effect.
“It’s recommended that you start giving the vaccine in October and we keep going with it into March and April, because you can still see flu in late winter and early spring,” she said. “With unusually high rates of flu that Georgia is already seeing, it’s even more critically important to get vaccinated.”
Singleton said some people have been scared away by the fact that H1N1 is in the current vaccine, but there’s nothing unusual about that, she said.
“The vaccine is proving to be very successful,” she said.
Vaccinations are available at the health department for $15 on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 7:30 am – 4:30 pm; Tuesdays from 7:30 am – 7 pm and Fridays from 7:30 am – 1 pm. The office is closed daily for lunch from 12-1.
“No appointments are necessary. We do them on a first come, first serve basis. We can file Medicaid, Medicare and the state health care plan as well.”
Singleton said the local health department started the season with 3,000 vaccines and has approximately 1,400 left.
“That’s in contrast to last year when we ran out and people were still wanting them so I ordered more.”
Several local pharmacies also offer the flu vaccine.
To protect from getting the flu, the CDC recommends the following:
Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
If you are sick with flu-like illness, CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care for other necessities. Fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.
While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.