‘Influenza can be and is a deadly disease’: South Ga. sees spike in flu cases

The uptick is causing more stress on southwest Georgia hospitals.
Published: Oct. 28, 2022 at 8:38 PM EDT
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ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Georgia has one of the highest rates of flu cases in the nation with over 1,000 positive cases confirmed.

The CDC reports that Georgia is one of the worst states with a surge of flu cases.
The CDC reports that Georgia is one of the worst states with a surge of flu cases.(CDC)

Health officials said it’s very early on in the year to have a spike in flu cases.

“Between the emergency department and the outpatient clinics, we saw a norm of 600 patients through the Albany area that had influenza,” said Dr. James Black, Phoebe’s medical director for emergency services.

That uptick is causing more stress on local hospitals.

Throughout the U.S., the CDC estimates that so far this season, there have been at least 880,000 flu illnesses, 6,900 hospitalizations and 360 deaths from the flu.

Black said the spike is a result of relaxed safety precautions as COVID-19 cases have decreased.

“With the lower numbers of coronavirus, it has given people the opportunity or they’ve taken that opportunity to get out and visit a little more and get back in close contact and combined with the flu season this has caused us to have an early influx,” he said.

The rise in flu cases has prompted health officials to bring in extra resources, such as flu shots. That is also impacting how fast pharmacies are giving out flu shots.

“We’ve definitely now seen an uptick both in flu prescriptions as well as people wanting to get the flu shot. But we’re seeing a pretty bad season this year,” said Betsy Urick, U Save It pharmacist.

Pharmacies are busy as they give out flu shots and prescriptions for the early flu season.
Pharmacies are busy as they give out flu shots and prescriptions for the early flu season.(WALB)

Urick said as a parent, she’s also seen the virus impact the schools as some have had to close due to students and staff contracting the virus.

“We’ve had lots and lots of, particularly children, out with the flu in this area and that certainly is going to affect kids learning and school,” she said.

In Georgia alone, there have been 18 confirmed flu outbreaks with 246 confirmed flu hospitalizations, according to the CDC.

Urick said the sooner you get your flu shot the better.

Health officials are urging residents to get their flu vaccine as flu cases continue rising.
Health officials are urging residents to get their flu vaccine as flu cases continue rising.(WALB)

“Unfortunately, it does take a couple of weeks for a flu shot to be effective. So the sooner you get it, the better to help protect you and we are trying to get as many people protected,” she said.

One resident said she was lucky to get in and out of urgent care.

“It usually depends on what urgent care you go to anyways but, like I said, this has been the fastest one I’ve ever been in so far. Usually, you’ll have to sit at least 30 minutes before they call you to the back or an hour, whatever,” Willie Green, Albany resident, said.

Darby Efpy, another Albany resident, came to his pharmacy to get his scheduled flu shot. He said he gets the flu shot every year.

“It’s my choice. I think it’s a good choice,” he said.

He also advises everyone to make the right decision for them depending on what their health provider recommends.

“I think it’s wise to get it. But I certainly would encourage people to do it. But at the same time, I know some people prefer not to,” he added.

Health officials want everyone to remember what the flu can do.

“Influenza can be and is a deadly disease, and so it’s not to be taken lightly,” said Black.