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Flu season getting off to slow start
Decline in North Georgia cases follows national trend
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With widespread fears of pandemics, flu season in recent years has been nothing to sneeze about.

This year, however, health care providers are reporting a late start to flu season, which traditionally runs from October to May, said David Palmer, a spokesman for the Georgia Department of Public Health.

Sabrina Broome, a registered nurse specializing in infection prevention at Northeast Georgia Medical Center, said the first positive result to come through was in December.

"That's not very typical," she said.
Georgia is listed as a state with "minimal" flu activity by the CDC.

The low number of cases has allowed Northeast Georgia Medical Center to ease enforcement of restrictions on child visitation, as it has in years past.

Normally during flu season, children aren't allowed near patients because of the risk of spreading or contracting the flu.

"This year we have not had to," she said.

According to CDC results, flu cases are down around most of the country, even though January and February are often the peak of flu season.

Nationwide, there were 122 flu-associated pediatric deaths in the 2010-2011 flu season, according to the CDC, and 282 the year before. So far this season, there have only been three.

While this year's cases are down from previous years, Palmer said that's no reason for residents to let their guard down.

"Flu is unpredictable," he said. "Some years you have a bad flu season and some years you don't."

Despite the low activity, Palmer said its still a good idea to get a flu shot.

"We would recommend that everyone get the flu shot every year," he said. "That's the best way to stop the spread of flu."

The public is also encouraged to cover mouths when coughing and sneezing, stay at home when feeling under the weather and avoid others who are sick.

Flu vaccines are still available by contacting the Public Health Department.