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Flu continues to impact middle Georgia

This year’s flu season is hitting hard. St. Mary’s Good Samaritan Hospital has seen 283 positive flu cases this month, as of the morning of Jan. 31. By comparison, the hospital had 40 confirmed flu cases in December and 19 cases a year ago, in January 2017. The peak month for the flu in 2017 was March, with 96 cases. At this point, Good Samaritan Hospital is seeing 3 times as many flu cases this year as the area saw at the worst of the season last year.

Good Samaritan Hospital clinicians also note that the actual number of flu cases they have seen this year is probably higher that 283 because patients with mild symptoms typically are not tested for the flu. Also, the flu virus mutated over the last few months, which means the test is not as sensitive as usual.

Hospital staff and medical staff have been working hard 24/7 to provide patients with the care they need. This year’s flu is producing unusually high numbers of patients who are progressing into more serious disease, especially pneumonia. Here is what people need to know:

  • Most cases of the flu can be treated at home with rest, fluids and over-the-counter medications.
  • For prevention, wash or sanitize your hands frequently, avoid crowded places and get your annual flu shot.
  • Symptoms include high fever, cough, runny or stuffy nose, sore throat, fatigue, chills and body aches. Some patients, especially children, are also experiencing nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea. Not all symptoms affect all patients.
  • If you are sick, protect others. Stay home except to seek medical care. Cover your coughs and sneezes. Do not visit hospitals, nursing homes or retirement communities.
  • People with risk factors for complications should seek care quickly if symptoms arise. Those at high risk include the elderly, very young children, people with respiratory conditions such as asthma and COPD, and people with weakened immune systems such as chemotherapy patients or patients with HIV/AIDS.
  • Symptoms that warrant emergency care include high fever that does not respond to over-the-counter medications; dizziness, confusion or other altered mental status; and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Persistent vomiting or diarrhea, while less common with the flu, can also create a medical emergency.
  • Emergency departments are very full. If you do not have serious symptoms, consider seeking care from your doctor or an urgent care clinic first. Expect longer wait times than normal in emergency departments.