Officials warn against severe flu season

ATLANTA -- While the flu level is still considered moderate in Georgia, health officials have reported significant increases in flu activity statewide and are encouraging people to get a flu shot.

The Georgia Department of Public Health officials said in a news release that the flu is hitting the state earlier and harder this year than in previous years. Early onset of the H3N2 flu is one indication of a potentially severe flu season.

"Because the flu vaccine so closely matches this year's flu strains, it just makes good common sense to get it," said J. Dr. Patrick O'Neal, director of health protection at the Georgia Department of Public Health. "The holidays bring gatherings with family and friends and increase the likelihood of spreading the flu. Now is the time to get vaccinated."

The release said some school systems have reported high absenteeism due to flu-like illnesses.

Symptoms of the flu include cough, runny nose, sore throat and fever. One of the most pronounced flu symptoms is an overall feeling of achiness and malaise that comes on quickly, officials said.

Officials recommend every healthy individual over the age of six months should get a flu vaccine.

Additional ways to prevent the flu include frequent and thorough hand washing with soap and water, and to use alcohol-based gels.

If you are sick, officials recommend staying home from school or work, and flu sufferers should be free of a fever without the use of a fever reducer, such as Tylenol, for at least 24 hours before returning to work or school.

Peak flu season is usually the end of January and runs through late February or early March, officials said.