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Trish Hall, MD

Flu Season Strikes Early

Local physicians are reporting the flu is here, and you may not be in the clear this flu season — even if you’ve already been vaccinated.

Within the past week, healthcare providers have noticed an uptick in flu diagnosis. Upson Family Physician Dr. Trish Hall said, “Usually the peak of flu season in Georgia is after the holidays and well into January or early February. Within this past week, we have seen several cases of the flu even in those who were vaccinated. However, we are still encouraging patients to get the vaccine as it is still protective, especially for those with chronic illnesses.”

Officials at the Centers for Disease Control say this year’s flu vaccine isn’t working as well as expected. According to the CDC, 52 percent of recent flu samples were not a good match for the current vaccine, and this year’s strain — the H3N2 virus — is a doozy.

According to the CDC, the virus has mutated, making the flu vaccine less effective and it’s too late to make any adjustments to the vaccine.

Even though the circulating strains of influenza have drifted from the strains covered in the vaccine, it’s still important to consider receiving the vaccine. Although it may not be a perfect match (it rarely ever is), it still provides coverage for several important strains which likely could become prevalent in the community later in the season.

Everyday actions that can help prevent spread of the flu:
•Cover your nose and mouth with tissue when you cough or sneeze.
•Stay away as much as you can from people who are sick.
•If you get the flu, stay home from work or school.
•Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze.
•Try not to touch your eyes, nose, or mouth. Germs often spread this way.

Healthy adults can spread the virus from one day before they have symptoms until five days after their beginning of symptoms. They can pass influenza virus to others even before they feel ill. Children may shed the virus for a longer period of time than adults.

Get plenty of rest and drink plenty of caffeine-free liquids to avoid becoming dehydrated. To reduce fever, take a non-aspirin pain reliever. There are two antiviral medications approved for treatment of the flu: oseltamivir (Tamiflu®) and zanamivir (Relenza®). They require a prescription and are most effective if started within 48 hours of getting symptoms. Stay home from school or work if you are ill to avoid spreading the flu to others.