State still tracking flu data during shutdown

COVINGTON — Georgians need not worry that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has ceased providing a weekly flu report and surveillance of influenza data due to the federal government shutdown, because the state is tracking flu cases, according to a spokeswoman for the Newton and Rockdale health departments.

State and local health departments are continuing flu surveillance, vaccine orders and shipments are not impacted by the government shutdown, and there are no reports of vaccine shortages, said Karen Shields, public information officer for the health departments.

Shields said surveillance just began so there is no data to report on flu cases in Georgia just yet.

“Get your flu shots. Now’s a great time to do it because it takes two weeks for immunity to build up totally,” Shields said. “We’re going to be getting into Halloween and before you know it, Thanksgiving,” and being around so many people during the holidays means higher risk of exposure.

The CDC provides a weekly FluView report and updates to guidance for clinicians. Neither is currently being provided during the shutdown. Support for outbreak investigations and response to public queries is also limited.

But each health district submits reports to the state, which are then transmitted to the CDC, Shields said. So local and state officials will still keep an eye on flu outbreaks regardless of how long the shutdown lasts.

Everyone 6 months of age and older is advised to get the flu shot. The nasal spray is available for healthy people age 2 through 49, excluding pregnant women. High-dose vaccines are designed for people age 65 and older and contain a higher dose of antigen than what is contained in regular flu shots, according to the Gwinnett, Newton and Rockdale county health departments website.

Flu shots are available at health departments in Newton and Rockdale counties at $25 for a seasonal shot and nasal sprays or $57 for high-dose flu vaccines. In Newton, call 770-786-9086 for more information and call 770-785-4345 in Rockdale. Shots can also be obtained at local pharmacies and doctors’ offices.

Everyday measures to prevent the flu include washing hands frequently with soap and water; covering mouth and nose with a tissue when sneezing or coughing and throwing tissue away; avoiding touching mouth, nose and eyes to prevent spread of germs; and avoiding close contact with sick people. If you are sick with flu-like symptoms such as fever, body aches, tiredness and cough, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone to avoid spreading the flu.