According to Northside Hospital Forsyth officials, even though strains of the influenza (flu) virus are on the rise in Forsyth County, it’s not too late to get vaccinated.
“It’s been a bad season, and you absolutely should get a flu shot,” said Adam Friedlander, director of pediatric emergency medicine for the Northside Hospital system.
“The big thing is that your risk has to do with your risk factors, and is based on who you are,” Friedlander said. “But the bottom line is that people who get the flu after being vaccinated don’t get as sick as people who don’t get one at all.”
According to Lynn Jackson, Northside Hospital Forsyth administrator, between Jan. 1 and Jan. 14, the hospital had 236 confirmed cases of the flu, and 32 emergency room patients were admitted to the hospital after testing positive for flu.
Jackson said that over the past weekend the hospital averaged 45 flu tests per day, with nearly half of those tests turning up positive.
Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta also reported a large uptick in flu cases in December and January.
Northside Hospital Forsyth, Jan. 1-14
32 hospitalizations due to influenza
1 confirmed influenza-associated death
525 samples tested for influenza
236 positive influenza tests
Metro Atlanta, Nov. 26-Jan. 6
307 hospitalizations due to influenza
5 confirmed influenza-associated deaths
4,301 samples tested for influenza
702 positive influenza tests
Sources (Northside Hospital Forsyth administrator Lynn Jackson and the Georgia Department of Public Health Weekly influenza Report Nov. 26-Jan. 6)
According to Dr. Andi Shane, medical director of hospital epidemiology at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, between the third week in December and the second week in January, the number of children testing positive for influenza type A grew from 12 to 41 percent.
Shane said that over the last week tests given at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Forsyth were 49 percent positive.
Friedlander said that there are five main flu symptoms to watch out for this year: fever, runny nose, cough and congestion, and a general achy, bad feeling.
If you are feeling any of these symptoms, are in good health and between the ages of 2 and 65, Friedlander said that your best treatment is to stay in your house, relax and wait the illness out.
But he said that children under the age of 2, adults over the age of 65 and anyone with heart, lung or kidney problems should seek medical attention and treatment as soon as symptoms arise to decrease risks associated with the flu and decrease the illness duration.
“The best things you can do are limit your exposure and exposing others, get your flu shot, and see your doctor at the first sign of symptoms,” Friedlander said.
CHOA tips for flu prevention
1. Vaccinate annually.
2. If sick, stay away from others.
3. Practice good hand hygiene.
4. Cover coughs and sneezes.
5. Take care of yourself and your immune system.
“It’s not too late to get a flu vaccine,” Shane said. “Flu strains usually circulate in Georgia through mid-April. With three or four strains in the flu vaccine, it can be beneficial at any time during the flu season “
Friedlander said that one of the biggest roadblocks healthcare professionals run into when trying to get people to vaccinate is the amount of commonly held ideas about vaccinations that are incorrect.
“It is an absolute falsehood that the flu vaccination can suppress your immune system or that you can get the flu from being vaccinated. Some people do feel worse after getting the vaccine, but that’s just the body's response to getting a vaccine,” he said.
Friedlander said that getting the vaccine isn’t going to guarantee someone won’t get the flu; instead, vaccines minimize their chances of getting seriously sick if they do get it.
The website for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists 17 conditions that would make someone at higher risk for developing flu-related complications including, asthma, pregnancy, heart or lung disease and obesity.
It stated that flu-related complications can range in severity and include pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus and ear infections, hospitalization and death.
Forsyth County had its first flu related death of the 2018 flu season last week.
Forsyth County Coroner Lauren McDonald said a 64-year-old man from Forsyth County died at Northside Hospital Forsyth over the weekend from flu-related complications.
According to pharmacist Megan Scott of Goodsons Pharmacy in Cumming, the pharmacy has seen little to no change in flu vaccine activity over the last month.
Scott said that in September and October during peak flu shot season, the pharmacy averaged about 30 or 40 vaccinations each day, but demand for vaccinations has petered off as winter rolled in.
Lee Goodson, of the Goodson Pharmacy in Cumming said that as of this week they still have a large stock of flu vaccinations for anyone who still needs one.
Lakeside Pharmacy owner Apollon Constantinides said that his pharmacy has seen a rise in sales of sterile masks and flu preventative measures in the last month.
“We haven’t seen a rise in flu vaccine sales, but what we have seen is more people being careful of their daily hygiene. Coming into the store with a mask on or to buy a mask,” Constantinides said.