The most recent CDC national data shows Georgia has the highest level of flu activity in the United States.
The state’s level of influenza-like illness was categorized as “high’’ in the report for the week ending Dec. 8. That was the most activity for any state, according to the agency’s map.
The CDC recommends a yearly flu shot for everyone ages 6 months or older.
According to infection preventionist Aundrea Hasty, Piedmont Newnan Hospital has seen an increase in patients with flu-like symptoms, and an increase the number of patients testing positive for the flu, over the past couple of weeks.
Around Dec. 21, the Georgia Department of Public Health reported an uptick in flu cases, especially among elderly and young patients. Four flu-related deaths have been reported in Georgia this flu season.
In November, Piedmont Newnan tested 59 patients for the flu, with 5.08 percent of the patients testing positive. In December, Piedmont Newnan tested 58 patients for the flu and 20.69 percent tested positive.
Most people testing positive for the flu did not receive a vaccine this year, according to Piedmont Newnan officials.
Piedmont officials said it is important to note the differences between the common cold and the flu.
Symptoms of flu include:
– Aches and pains
– Chest discomfort, cough
Sometimes people may also experience sneezing, sore throat and stuffy nose, but those symptoms are associated more with the common cold than the flu.
With the flu, most people report a sudden onset of symptoms. If you have any of the above symptoms, contact your primary care physician. Antivirals to treat the flu must be given within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms. The longer you wait to get treated, the more severe symptoms can get.
Influx of flu patients
Since Dec. 1, Piedmont Newnan has experienced an increase in influenza cases in both the emergency room and in patients being admitted. A sudden influx of patients has caused the hospital to remain at or near capacity most days, and much of that influx is attributed to the rise in confirmed flu cases.
Safety plans in place at hospital
With the increase in influenza cases, Piedmont Healthcare officials say they have put safeguards in place to ensure the safety of its patients, visitors and staff and to prevent transmission of the flu. This includes restricted visits to the Neonatal Intensive Care Units and to intermediate nurseries.
Flu stations also have been set up around the hospital, stocked with surgical masks, hand sanitizer, tissues and signs encouraging anyone with flu-like symptoms to wear a mask.
Piedmont officials say they are following the CDC guidelines and encourage all visitors to follow good hand hygiene by washing their hands often with soap and water, or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap and water are unavailable. Covering the nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing and sneezing will also help stop the spread of the flu. Tissues should be thrown in the trash after each use.
People at high risk of serious flu complications, including young children; pregnant women; people with chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes or heart and lung disease; people 65 years and older; and people who are immunocompromised should seek health care advice early on if they experience flu-like symptoms.