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Northeast Georiga Medical Center seeing fewer flu cases
CDC: Outbreak of cases tapering off nationwide
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Northeast Georgia Medical Center flu statistics

Week        Tests          Positives

Jan. 12      377            78

Jan. 19      202            21

Jan. 26      175            19

Feb. 2        119            21

Note: Numbers just for hospital inpatients and patients processed in the Emergency Department

The Centers for Disease Control reported Friday that the worst of the flu season is over.

At Northeast Georgia Medical Center, officials said that was probably true as they reported a downward trend in the number of flu tests over the last month.

Sean Couch, spokesman for the hospital, said there were 21 positive tests the week of Feb. 2. That compares to 78 positive tests the week of Jan. 12.

Emergency medicine physician Gary Kempler said he agreed the season seemed to be slacking off fairly dramatically. But that followed a pretty busy time for the Gainesville hospital between the last week in December and first part of January.

"It was pretty manic. We saw over 10,000 patients in the month of December, which was a new record for us, and a large number of those were the flu," he said.

Kempler said staff did hundreds of flu tests, a simple nasal swab that tests for influenza A and B.

The hospital increased staffing to handle the traffic, increasing physician staffing by 16 hours a week, he said.

"We extended our fast track hours and we added some physician shifts and called in some doctors when it was really busy," he said. "We increased nursing, physician assistant and physician coverage."

The early start to the flu season followed the national trend, which showed it beginning earlier than normal and spiking first in the Southeast.

It’s been nine years since a conventional flu season started like this one. That was the winter of 2003-04, one of the deadliest in the past 35 years, with more than 48,000 deaths. Like this year, that season had the same dominant flu strain, one that tends to make people sicker.

But back then, the flu vaccine didn’t protect against that bug, and fewer people got flu shots. The vaccine is reformulated each year, and the CDC has said this year’s vaccine is a good match to the types that are circulating. A preliminary CDC study showed this year’s version is about 60 percent effective.

Kempler said the time is probably past where people need to get a flu shot, but he recommended getting one ahead of next year’s flu season. Flu vaccinations are recommended for everyone ages 6 months or older, according to the CDC.

The Associated Press
contributed to this report.