“We are seeing the flu in children and adults both with those vaccinated and those who have not been vaccinated,” said Kim Scoggins, president of Polk Medical Center.
Officials with the Georgia Department of Public Health released a statement recently confirming that the state is in the midst of a flu epidemic, the likes of which hasn’t been felt in nearly a decade.
So far, two adult flu-related deaths have been reported in Georgia.
Scoggins said the fortunate aspect is that most locals have suffered through the symptoms without serious complications. There have been no influenza-related deaths in Polk County and none have been admitted to the hospital, she said.
The hospital has seen an up tick in those sick with flu symptoms.
Scoggins said the emergency room saw more than 100 patients with flu symptoms in December. The hospital has seen a total of 522 patients with flu symptoms so far this season, she said.
She said this area is seeing more of the Influenza A (H3N2) strain than any other type, although patients have also been diagnosed with the Influenza B strain.
The H3N2 strain is a predominant influenza strain across the country this season and is generally associated with more severe flu.
“In the past, what we’ve seen is that H3 predominant years tend to be the worst. The increasing flu activity we’re seeing should be a wake-up call,” Northwest Georgia Public Health’s Dr. Wade Sellers said.
Scoggins said the flu season in Georgia typically peaks in the end of January and lasts until March.
“It’s not too late to get the vaccine,” Scoggins said.
However, getting a vaccine shot may be problematic for Polk County residents who don’t have a family doctor.
Kroger Pharmacy at 730 North Main St., Cedartown, is one pharmacy in the area that has flu shots available and plan to keep a small stock of vaccine throughout the season.
David Stewart, a pharmacist at Rite Aid, 633 North Main St., said his store has just received a new shipment of the vaccine and has 36 doses available.
He said his store also has a “single shot” vaccine, but that is available only to those with a doctor’s prescription for it.
Stewart said the vaccines are suitable for those with both Types A and B flu.
“It is the standard formula from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control),” Stewart said.
The pharmacist said his staff has been busy both in administering vaccinations and helping those with the flu relieve symptoms since August.
“We’ve had quite a few come in, especially in the past couple of weeks,” he said.
Stewart said no appointment is necessary to get the shot. The shots are available to everyone during operating hours, which are 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. Sunday.
He said some might think getting a flu shot this late into flu season will not do any good. Some even think it could actually cause the flu, Stewart said.
Stewart said the shot doesn’t cause people to become sick and getting a vaccine is always a good idea.
“Even if they get the flu, the symptoms aren’t as serious if they have had the flu shot.
Bradford Drugs offers flu shots, but has run out of vaccine, according to store officials. They don’t plan on restocking.
Browns Pharmacy does not offer flu shots. Walmart stores in both Cedartown and Rockmart are out of the vaccine.
CVS Pharmacy in Cedartown also said offers the shots, but also has run out.
The Polk County Health Department also typically offers flu shots.
However, public health officials said each county is allotted a certain amount of vaccine and Polk’s health department has used up most of its vaccines on hand.
Officials said the health department does have a limited supply of preservative-free vaccine for children ages 6 to 35 months old.
Sellers also recommended getting vaccinated, even if it takes a little effort to find someone offering the shot. He suggests that people contact their local physician.
“This year’s vaccine looks to be a good match with this year’s influenza strains,” according to Sellers, “including the H3N2 strain we’re seeing circulating in the community.
“For anyone who has put off vaccination, it’s time to get your flu vaccine now.”
Northwest Georgia Public Health spokesman Logan Boss said immunization is recommended for everyone over six months of age and especially for people at high risk for developing flu-related complications.
Those include children younger than five, especially those younger than two, adults 65 years of age and older, pregnant women and people with certain medical conditions including asthma, heart disease and chronic lung disease.
“It’s important for household contacts and caregivers of children younger than five years to be vaccinated,” Boss said, “but especially so for those of children younger than six months, since infants less than six months of age can’t be immunized. Get immunized yourself
and, in doing so, wrap that blanket of protection around the young child.”
Other things to do to keep from getting the flu include frequent and thorough hand washing with warm water and soap, avoiding touching your face, and covering your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing.
People who have the flu often feel some or all of these signs and symptoms:
Fever or feeling feverish/chills, although it’s important to note not everyone with flu will have a fever
- Sore throat Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle or body aches Headaches
- Fatigue (very tired)
- Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.
Take your child to the pediatrician or to the emergency department if he or she displays any of the following symptoms:
- Rapid or labored breathing
- Bluish skin color
- Not drinking enough to maintain hydration
- Not waking up or interacting
- Irritability to the point that he or she doesn’t want to be held