Flu season strikes in Rockdale, Newton

CONYERS — While flu activity most commonly peaks in the U.S. in January or February, sore throats, fevers and other flu-like symptoms have already arrived in Rockdale and Newton counties.

Seasonal flu activity can begin as early as October and continue to occur as late as May, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, www.cdc.gov.

At Dr. Lisa Miller M.D. Pediatrics P.C. in Covington, Miller has reported a higher number of cases within the past two months.

“Our office is averaging about 15 to 20 cases per day,” Miller said. “These are almost all Type A. This number has doubled over the past month. We started seeing cases of influenza as early as late September.”

Miller noted that her office has also “sent a number of children by ambulance to the hospital with pneumonia and mild respiratory distress.”

She said her office offers the flu shot and flu mist, but so far has given only about 1,100 doses which is about 20 percent of her patient population.

Her office provides parents with influenza advice handouts and recommends keeping children well-hydrated and treating the fever with Motrin or Tylenol.

“For older children, cough medicines like Mucinex are fine. If the flu symptoms have been present less than 48 hours we often treat with Tamiflu to attempt to shorten the course and severity of the flu,” Miller said. “For small children, a cool mist humidifier can help with the dry cough. We also recommend nasal saline for the nose in the small children and infants who can’t blow their noses. It is highly contagious so we do not recommend they return to school until they have been fever-free for 24 hours.”

Local health departments are emphasizing the importance of the flu vaccine during National Influenza Immunization Week, which began Sunday and is observed through Saturday, Dec. 14.

“Alabama and South Carolina have very high influences of the flu right now compared to Georgia,” said Karen Shields, public information officer for the Gwinnett, Rockdale and Newton County Health Departments. “When the state is surrounded by the flu, the best thing to do to prevent it from spreading is for people to get the flu shot. It’s never too late to get the vaccine.”

According to the CDC website, during the period Nov. 24 to 30, Region 4, which includes Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North and South Carolina and Tennessee, reported an elevated number of out-patient visits for influenza-like illness (ILI) and 13.2 percent tested positive for the flu.

Every week, about 1,800 outpatient health care providers around the country report data to CDC on the total number of patients seen and the number of those patients with influenza-like illness by age group.

For this calculating system, ILI is defined as a fever temperature of 100 F or greater and a cough and/or a sore throat without a known cause other than the flu.

Shields said Newton and Rockdale Health Centers have provided more than 5,100 flu shots so far this fall.

To receive the vaccine at those health centers, it will cost $25 for the seasonal flu vaccine, $47 for the nasal spray and $56 for a high dose flu vaccine.

Those at a greater risk for serious flu-related complications, like pneumonia, that can lead to hospitalization and even death include, but are not limited to:

• Children younger than 5 years old, and especially children younger than 2 years old;

• Pregnant women;

• People 65 years and older;

• People with certain medical conditions like asthma, diabetes, or heart and lung disease.