- Everyone 6 months and older is urged to get a flu vaccine this season. Those especially at risk include those with medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes and chronic lung disease; pregnant women; those 65 and older; those who live with people at high risk.
- The Centers for Disease Control recommends people get vaccinated as soon as the vaccine is available. The season can begin as early as October and last through May.
- Vaccines are offered at many doctor’s offices, clinics, health departments and pharmacies.
- The vaccine is needed each year because the virus is constantly changing. The vaccine is formulated to keep up with that change.
- Those who do contract the flu can be treated with antiviral drugs, which will make the illness milder.
Source: Centers for Disease Control
Flu season typically reaches its peak in January, and Dr. Fatimah Manzoor from the internal medicine department at The Longstreet Clinic in Gainesville said this has been a particularly aggressive season.
“For me, I think, this is one of the worst flu seasons that I’ve seen,” Manzoor said. “It looks like there was a similar season about a decade ago, and the virus strain then was the same as this season’s.”
Mancoor said one of this season’s strains “has the propensity of making people sicker.”
“Generally speaking, it makes for a worse kind of flu season, and I don’t know if this season is at its peak yet because the number of cases hasn’t really started going down,” Manzoor said, adding that many offices ran out of flu testing kits due to the number of people being tested for the virus.
Dave Palmer, Hall County Health Department public information officer, added that Georgia is seeing more reports of the influenza virus this year than last.
“We’ve had an active flu season this year,” Palmer said. “This year’s flu vaccine matches the strains (of the virus) pretty well, but it doesn’t necessarily mean complete immunity.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 29 states are now experiencing widespread flu activity.
Palmer explained that in Georgia, when the number of reported flu cases crosses an established baseline percentage, the virus’ activity level changes classifications.
“Georgia’s baseline is 2.8 percent for people that report having flu-like symptoms. People with the symptoms have samples taken to confirm the presence of the flu virus, and when that number goes over the baseline, it goes from normal to sporadic activity to widespread,” Palmer said.
“At the end of December, we were at about 5.2 percent.”
Palmer added there are many factors that determine how effective the flu shot is in fighting off the virus, including immune system strength.
“You should continue to wash your hands, cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze and stay home if you’re sick so you don’t spread the germs to others. But the flu vaccine is still the best protection against the flu,” Palmer said.
While Georgia’s flu season runs October to May, with cases peaking in January and February, you can catch the virus in any month.
Those considered to be at higher risk for suffering from flu-related complications — pregnant women, anyone ages 50 and older, those with chronic medical conditions, nursing home residents, children under age 5 and those who care for people who may be more at risk — should strongly consider getting vaccinated, but the public as a whole is urged to do the same.
“You can’t get the flu from the vaccine, and even though people can still get the virus after getting vaccinated, usually you have a milder case if you’ve had the shot and still get the virus. Now is still a good time to get the flu shot,” Palmer said.