Flu season hits Georgia early and hard - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

FOX Medical Team

Flu season hits Georgia early and hard

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ATLANTA -

If you're hearing a lot of coughing around you, there's a good reason. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says flu season has hit early, and harder than usually this year. Georgia is one of 41 states now reporting widespread flu.

Right now about 5.5 percent of all doctors' visits are because of flu-like illness.

If you are scared of needles, or just haven't made time to get a flu shot, you may want to rethink that pretty quickly.

"What we know about this year is that it seems to be starting sooner than most flu seasons. And the strain of flu that is spreading tends to be associated with earlier and more severe flu years," said Dr. Thomas Frieden of the CDC.

That means more sick kids are coming in to emergency department like the one at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston.

Children's Healthcare is asking parents to keep otherwise healthy children with flu home, treating them with Tylenol, fluids and lots of rest, rather than bringing them to the doctor and risky spreading the virus.

The Georgia Department of Public Health says in the metro Atlanta area, the flu intensity level is now a 10 out of 10. They're seeing the biggest increases in flu infection rates in kids four and under and adults 25 to 49.

Seasonal flu spread easily and comes on quick with a week of fever, headache, body aches, fatigue, and a sore throat that can last a week.

The CDC says it's not too late to get vaccinated, but do it soon, because your body needs a couple of weeks to build up immunity.

If you do get sick flu, antiviral medications like Tamiflu and Relenza can help, but you need a doctor's prescription, and there most effective when started very early.

Flu is most dangerous for young children, seniors and people with underlying illnesses like Asthma, heart disease and diabetes, and can be risky for pregnant women.

The last week of December, the Georgia Department of Public Health says there were 59 hospitalizations due to influenza infection.

Flu season usually heats up in January and February, but doctors have seen a jump in patients coming in with flu symptoms since late November.

Right now just over 5 percent of Georgians go to the doctor and are doing so because they think they might have flu.

Statewide so far this season, 332 have been hospitalized and there has been one flu-related death.

Most of us will get through the flu OK, but if you have a shot at avoiding it, do it.

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