Flu lingers in Georgia

FOX Medical Team

Flu lingers in Georgia

Posted: Updated:
ATLANTA -

The emergency rooms aren't quite as crowded with coughing, miserable patients, and it's starting to look like they flu may be letting go of its grip on Georgia.

The state Department of Public Health says as of Jan. 18,  there have been 37 confirmed flu-related deaths in Georgia -- one of them a child. But 32 of the 37 deaths were in people between the ages of 18 and 64.   

At WebMD's Atlanta headquarters, Chief Medical Editor Dr. Michael Smith says the reason young and middle-aged adults are getting hit so hard may be the strain of the virus circulating.  

Dr. Smith says, "This year's flu season we're seeing a reemergence of the H1N1 flu virus, that's what we called the Swine Flu back in 2009.  It is another form of the flu, but it's the young people, young kids and young adults that seem to be getting more severe cases of the flu, and we're seeing a slight spike in deaths in that population from that type of flu."

So what can you do?  The CDC says your best shot at avoiding the flu is to get vaccinated.  And it's not too late to get a flu shot.  

The seasonal flu typically peaks in late January and early February in Georgia.  But flu is notoriously unpredictable.

A flu shot won't provide total protection, but it may lessen the misery -- and the amount of days you are ill if you do get sick.

Dr.  Smith says, "If you think you have the flu, call your doctor right away.  Because there are medications, flu medicines, that can actually shorten the duration of the flu."

He says, "Over the counter cold medicines can help with your symptoms, but only a prescription medication from your doctor can actually shorten flu."

Antivirals like Tamiflu are most effective when taken within 48 of the onset of symptoms.  That's why it's important to call your physician if you do become ill.

But how do you know if it's the flu or a cold? Smith says the flu hits quickly -- and hard,

"Because you're fine one minute and even just an hour or two later, you can barely get out of the bed.  You know the difference between a cold and a flu.  Call your doctor right away.  That medicine can actually shorten the duration of symptoms by about a day or two, and when you have the flu, that can be a huge help."

Getting help quickly is especially important if you have an underlying condition that raises your risk of severe flu complications like pneumonia.  Conditions like heart disease, lung problems, diabetes, pregnancy and even obesity can raise your risk of complications.

The CDC says 28 children so far have died from flu complications as of Jan. 18. In the last two weeks alone, 18 children died. One of them was here in Georgia.

Children under six months are too young to be vaccinated, so parents need to make sure everyone around their baby has gotten a flu shot.

The agency recommends all Americans six months and older get vaccinated.

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