Few flu cases in Augusta so far

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does genome sequencing of flu samples to see if the circulating flu strains match up to those used to create the flu vaccine for this season./SPECIAL

Flu season has yet to really arrive in Augusta but that doesn’t mean people aren’t already suffering from other viral illnesses, according to Augusta hospitals.


As of its last report on Dec. 9, AU Medical Center had seen four confirmed flu cases in adults and one in a child, said Dr. Jose Vazquez, chief of infectious disease.

“That’s it,” he said. “It’s pretty dead around this area so far.”

But people are showing up suffering from other things, Vazquez said. The hospital knows exactly what because it does rapid testing of swabs, he said.

“There is a ton of viral syndrome,” Vazquez said. “There is a lot of rhinovirus, there is enterovirus, there is coronavirus, there’s respiratory syncytial virus. These are all what’s called the common cold. There’s a bunch of that.”

That is also the case at University Hospital, said spokeswoman Erica Cline.

“We’re getting a lot of requests for testing but not a lot of actual flu,” she said.

The same holds true at Doctors Hospital, said Dr. Thomas Zickgraf, medical director of the Department of Emergency Medicine.

“Of the many people we’re testing with upper respiratory symptoms and fever, a lot of them are coming back negative for flu,” he said. “We are seeing some sporadic cases. I think much like last year, we had a very late flu season.” Of the roughly 500 tests the hospital has done since October, only 25 have been positive for flu, Zickgraf said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Friday in its FluView that through Dec. 9 Georgia is experiencing a moderate level of influenza-like illness while South Carolina is seeing a high level.

But most of the flu activity for the Augusta area really doesn’t get going until the end of December, Vazquez said.

“January and February is really the peak,” he said. “So if you don’t have your flu shot yet, it is definitely not too late.”

Reach Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213 or tom.corwin@augustachronicle.com