Georgia being hit hard by flu

Georgia continues to be among the states hardest hit by the ongoing flu pandemic even as public health officials urge otherwise healthy children and adults to forgo anti-viral treatment as a means of extending the supply to those most at risk from complications and to prevent cultivating resistance to the drugs.

 

In a teleconference today with reporters, Anne Schuchat of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that 25 school systems and about 25,000 students were dismissed Friday because of the flu. Those school systems were in Georgia, Tennessee, Indiana and Missouri, she said.

That list likely included Glascock County schools, which were closed Friday because of an increased number of kids showing up with flulike and gastrointestinal illness and in hopes the four-day weekend would help break the viral cycle. CDC has been recommending that schools close as a last resort to flu outbreaks.

Georgia universities are also hard-hit, according to the American College Health Association. For the week ending Aug. 28, participating schools reported 2,028 cases of flulike illness, including 283 in Georgia, the group said. The report does not break down the cases by school. Georgia had the second-highest attack rate or spread of flulike illness, with a rate of 80.9 infections per 10,000 students, second only to Washington state. South Carolina universities report relatively low numbers of 21 cases and an attack rate of 5.1 cases per 10,000, according the school health group.

The Southeast has seen the most activity for the past couple of weeks and the reason is unknown, but it is probably because children went back to school earlier than those in Northern states and because many of the states had relatively little flu activity from the novel influenza A H1N1 virus in the spring compared to places such as New York, so “they may just be getting their spring wave now,” Dr. Schuchat said.

The CDC is also reiterating and refining its recommendations to clinicians on the use of anti-viral medications such as Tamiflu. It is two-fold: otherwise healthy people don’t need them and, barring serious complications, probably do not need to make a trip to the doctor or the emergency room. Dr. Schuchat said. However, those with underlying illnesses should receive the drugs promptly at the first signs of fever and illness because the drugs are most effective when taken in the first 48 hours, she said. In fact, those at serious risk of the flu may want to get a prescription for an anti-viral medication in advance so that at the first sign of illness and after a telephone consultation with the provider they can get the drug, Dr. Schuchat said.

Children under the age of 2 should be seen if developing flulike illness, and children should be taken in if they develop the following complications:

- Trouble breathing or fast breathing;

- Bluish or grayish color;

- Vomiting that won’t stop or trouble taking in fluids;

- Difficulty waking up;

- Irritability to the point that they don’t want to be held

- Seem to be getting better and then suddenly take a turn for the worse or redevelop fever.

The CDC is still recommending that children get the novel H1N1 vaccine when it becomes available, which is expected to begin in October. So far, the virus has not changed at all from the strains on which the vaccine is based so there should be a good match to the circulating strain, Dr. Schuchat said. Others who should get the novel H1N1 vaccine are:

- Pregnant women;

- Young adults up to 24 years old;

- Adults ages 25-64 with chronic health conditions such as asthma or diabetes;

- People who live with an infant under 6 months old, who are too young to vaccinate.

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