Fall is Here, and It’s Time to Fight the Flu
Welcome to fall! A time for colorful leaves, pumpkin spice everything, and … the flu.
This past legislative session, the Georgia General Assembly passed House Bill 198 with strong overall support. This addition to the law requires local school systems to provide information on influenza, or “the flu,” and its vaccine to parents and guardians of 6th-12th-grade students anytime they provide other health information.
To fulfill this requirement, the Georgia Department of Public Health has added influenza information to their website, explaining what influenza is, how to prevent its spread, and more. This information will be sent out statewide to school nurses.
What Is Influenza?
The flu is a viral, contagious respiratory illness. The influenza virus infects the nose, throat, and lungs.
The most common symptoms are a fever, sore throat, muscle aches, and cough. You might also experience headaches, a runny or stuffy nose, fatigue, and vomiting or diarrhea (more common for children).
While the flu itself comes with one set of problems, it can also weaken the body’s defenses and lead to additional complications, like pneumonia. And if you have existing chronic health problems, like heart disease or diabetes, the flu might make those worse. Children, people who are elderly, pregnant women, and people with certain chronic health conditions are more likely to have additional complications from influenza.
During an average flu season — from early October to as late as May — 36,000 Americans die and over 200,000 are hospitalized from complications caused by influenza.
Pandemic influenza is any newly introduced strain of the flu that is contagious and infectious to humans, and for which humans have little or no natural immunity. It’s associated with an increase in severe illness and death.
How Do I Avoid the Flu?
The Georgia Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) agree:
The best way to prevent influenza is to get a flu vaccine every year.
About the Flu Vaccine
Since strains of the virus change quickly, it’s important to get the updated vaccine every year.
Children at least 6 months old, and women who are pregnant can both receive the flu vaccine. Learn more from the CDC about how getting the flu shot while pregnant can protect both you and your child.
You may have heard rumors that the the flu shot can actually give you the flu, but this is not true. The vaccine does not contain a live virus, so it cannot cause influenza. While about 1% of people who receive the vaccine experience short-term symptoms like fever, chills, or muscles aches, these are side effects and not symptoms of the flu.
It’s best to get vaccinated early in the season. So if you haven’t yet, find a vaccine clinic now!
Georgians can get vaccinated at:
- School-based flu clinics
- Local county health departments
- Private healthcare providers
- Local pharmacies
Public Health Districts
To find a local county health department, visit your district health office’s website (organized by county).
Stop the Spread
If you suspect you may be sick, keep in mind basic health habits to contain the illness. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you sneeze or cough, wash your hands with soap or an alcohol-based hand rub, and stay at home.
What’s Happening in Georgia?
Throughout each flu season, the Georgia Department of Public Health provides weekly influenza reports. These reports provide a summary of flu activity in Georgia including:
- The number of outpatients with an influenza-like illness (ILI);
- How widespread the illnesses are geographically;
- The number of hospitalizations and deaths; and more.
The Department of Public Health considers an illness “Influenza-like” when symptoms include a fever over 100ºF, coughing, or a sore throat. When outpatient numbers exceed baseline levels (0-3%), analysts suspect that influenza is active in that area.
In the first report for this flu season (PDF), we’ve seen minimal influenza-like illness activity in Georgia with sporadic occurrences of sustained flu transmission.
Learn more about the influenza virus from the Georgia Department of Public Health.