Influenza cases on the rise

Lekia Lanham (left) waited inside the emergency room at Doctors Hospital on Monday. Both A and B strains of influenza have popped up across the area.

A lot more masks are showing up in the Emergency Department at Doctors Hospital these days.


The hospital offers masks to those who appear to have a respiratory illness, and business is booming, said Dr. Mark Newton, the medical director for the department.

After a slow start to the month, there have been a lot more influenza, both A and B strains, and respiratory syncytial virus infections that typically pop up in children at this time of year, he said.

"We're seeing a variety of respiratory infections," Newton said.

Typically busy weekends for the department have been compounded by the holidays, when doctors' offices and other providers aren't open. Both Christmas Day and the day after were "incredibly busy," Newton said:

"We anticipate this coming weekend will be busy. And a lot of it is respiratory illnesses."

The Emergency Department at Medical College of Georgia Children's Medical Center has seen a few cases of flu but not a big volume so far, said Dr. James Wilde, a professor of emergency medicine and pediatrics.

"It doesn't feel like flu season yet, at least in terms of what our volume in the (department) looks like," he said.

All of MCG's positive cases have been influenza B, which was showing up early in the season nationally and statewide, although more cases of influenza A H3N2 have been recorded lately across the nation, Wilde said.

"That's important because H3N2 subtype tends to be more severe than either the (influenza A) H1N1 or the flu type B," he said.

After Georgia led the way in flu this year, some other states are starting to catch up Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi were all listed as having a high level of flulike illnesses for the week ending Dec. 18 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Georgia has had 61 people hospitalized for flu this season, including seven in the past report, and four deaths from flu, according to the Georgia Division of Public Health. The deaths were women ages 37 to 80, and three had underlying health conditions that put them at higher risk of complications, spokeswoman Ravae Graham said.

South Carolina, which is listed as having a regional level of flu activity, the second-highest, has had 42 hospitalizations so far, including 13 in the latest report, and three deaths, according to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.

The CDC is recommending that everyone older than 6 months receive flu vaccine. Of the 89 virus isolates the agency has typed, the strains match those in this year's vaccine.