Augusta, GA – Flu season just started and there have already been five deaths in the Palmetto State.
Doctor’s in South Carolina said the early flu deaths are not an indication of how severe this year’s flu season will be.
Shortly after those deaths, a CDC report came out stating that Georgia is number one in flu cases this year compared to other states. Despite that report, the number of influenza cases is relatively low for the state. So, in order to keep it that way, prevention is key.
Penny Shute, Infection Prevention Coordinator for University Hospital, said “It’s fairly early in the season. Our peak season is usually around December. If you look at last year’s numbers that’s exactly when we peaked. “
When coughing and sneezing turn into fever and severe aches and pain, you know it’s the flu. The symptoms can sneak up on you, just like the entire flu season has for the Peach State. Shute can’t tell us concretely why the flu happened so fast, but she suspects an older virus.
“Several years ago we had H1N1 come through. H1N1 was found because it is earlier or later than the normal flu season. I wonder if some of that is still hanging around,” she recalled.
The Georgia Department of Public Health reported for Week 40 (October 4 – October 10, 2015), there was minimal flu activity. There was a higher number of outpatient illnesses at 1.67%, which is higher than the 1.6% Georgia baseline. There were no hospitalizations and no deaths relating to the flu.
That same time period last year, the state health department reported for Week 40 (September 28 – October 4, 2014) that the flu was more sporadic across the state with a lower number of outpatient illnesses at .32%, which is below the 2.1% Georgia baseline. There were also no hospitalizations or deaths.
In the Palmetto State the flu hits harder.
The second week of October or Week 41 (week ending October 17, 2015) shows the flu is in various parts of the state, with visits for flu-like illnesses below the state baseline at 3.16%. South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control Division of Acute Disease Epidemiology reported 19 people in the hospital and one death that week.
Week 41 or the week ending October 11, 2014, the flu was also sporadic with visits for flu-like illnesses below the state baseline at .41%. There were 11 people in the hospital and one flu death.
Shute thinks the difference is in the way the two states report.
“I do know that last year they had deaths before Georgia did too,” she said.
University Hospital has already had two patients get the flu. So, patients, employees and staff will all be required to get the flu shot. Those employees who don’t get vaccinated by November 9 will have to wear mask. So, there is a big push for you to get the flu shot…keep your hands clean and away from your face.