DOUGHERTY CO., GA (WALB) - A major health alert for our community, there is a widespread flu outbreak.
And, it is not just in South Georgia, but across the state.
According to public health officials, every county in our region has reported flu virus and it is hitting school age children very hard.
The clinic at Turner Elementary School in Albany has been very busy with sick kids.
"We have had a significant increase in the amount of students that have come in with influenza, with strep throat and viral gastrointestinal issues in the last weeks," said Sara Trivette, an Albany Area Primary Health Care Physician's Assistant, who runs the clinic.
Dr. Charles Ruis, the Public Health Director for the Southwest Health District agreed, "Some schools have had more than 10% of their student population absent because of the flu."
Colquitt County schools shut down Tuesday for the rest of the week, hoping to stop the flu's spread.
In Lee County, the assistant superintendent said an average of 10% of the students attending mostly the lower schools in the western half of the county have been absent this week.
Parents in Lee County were noticed Tuesday about the outbreak, and asked to keep ill children home from school to contain the virus.
Dougherty County's spokesperson said children are absent from class due to illness across the county's schools, and the virus is not clustered in just one or two schools.
Dr. Ruis doesn't know why there is a late-season surge of the flu virus, but said "One of the things that is different this year is that we are not using the nasal mist (vaccine) for the children. It is possible that might have had some effect, but we just don't know right now."
There are important steps people can take to prevent the flu, and stop it's spread.
"Hand washing is so important, washing hands with soap and water" said Trivette, plus keeping a sick child home, even one with a low-grade fever, is critical right now.
"It is important to not come if you are sick and then to stay out the full duration until you are no longer contagious. Unfortunately for kids who get the flu, they are out for potentially a full week of school."
The Public Health Director hopes that next week's spring break will help curb the spread of these viral illnesses, but encourages people to go ahead and get a flu shot, as the virus is expected to be a problem into April, maybe May.