There has been a steady spike of flu related deaths in the state.
According to weekly flu reports released by the Georgia Department of Health, the state has seen 66 flu associated deaths state-wide for week five, which covers Jan. 28- Feb. 3. While that is an increase of 15 deaths from the prior week’s report it is less than the big spike between week three and four, when deaths doubled from 25 to 51.
Of the 66 statewide deaths the highest numbers were among the elderly, age 65 and older.
In that group 49 deaths were reported. There were eight death in ages 51-64, seven between 18-51 and two in ages 5-17. So far no infant flu-associated deaths have been reported in the state.
The same can’t be said nationally. The Center for Disease Control reported 63 pediatric deaths nationwide through week five.
Locally, Coastal Health District Public Information Officer Sally Silbermann said the district has 13 confirmed flu-associated deaths in the eight county district.
Nine were confirmed in Chatham County, three in Glynn and one in Effingham County.
The CDC reported flu viruses are most common during fall and winter, beginning around October and peaking between December and February. The flu season, however, can continue as late as May.
This year’s season is now as bad as the swine flu epidemic that hit the United States in 2009, the CDC reported. The flu is widespread in 48 states and Puerto Rico.
The CDC recommends people get yearly flu vaccines which protect against different flu viruses. During the current flu season, H3N2 viruses have been most common.
The CDC reported that flu vaccines usually do not work as well against H3N2 viruses. But the proportion of influenza B and H1N1 viruses is increasing and flu vaccines usually work better against those viruses. They also noted that even with reduced vaccine effectiveness, vaccination may still prevent some flu illnesses, medical visits and hospitalizations.
To prevent getting and spreading the flu the CDC recommends limiting contact with people already infected or showing flu like symptoms and avoiding contact with others if you have the flu. Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze. Wash your hands often with soap and water and clean and disinfect surfaces and projects that may be contaminated.
Andy Miller of Georgia Health News contributed to this report.