H1N1 virus back for this flu season

News 12 at 11 / Monday, January 13, 2014

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- Doctors are telling people to brace themselves because this year's flu is fierce, and it's bringing up memories from the past.

"We have several people who have been so sick they're in the intensive care unit," said Kevin Dellsperger, Chief Medical Officer for Georgia Regents Medical Center (GRMC).

A dangerous flu strain is on the rise, and it's causing this hospital to close its doors to some visitors.

"We have a lot of flu that is the H1N1, and if you remember back to 2009, that was outbreak that was very large around the country," Dellsperger said.

It was a pandemic, in fact, and doctors say they don't want a repeat. So, as of Monday, no one under age 12 can visit family and friends at GRMC or the Children's Hospital.

"The patients we have have lower immune systems than the regular population, so what we want to do is protect them from not only each other, but their families," he said.

Even the play area is temporarily off limits.

Hospitals aren't the only ones changing their procedures for the flu. You might remember back in 2009 many Catholic churches changed their Mass to keep the virus from spreading. The sign of peace, where everyone shakes hands, was cut, and how they took Communion was changed.

"The chalice which is a shared cup, that was also cut to avoid contact between people," Father Pablo Migone said.

Fr. Pablo remembers the changes at St. Joseph's in Augusta.

"That way the church could play a part in stopping the spread of flu rather than being a place for people get the flu," he said.

While there's been no talk of taking out those practices this season, if the flu gets worse, it could be a consideration.

"I know a lot of people that have gotten the flu. A lot of people seem to be getting the flu," he admitted.

With three deaths already confirmed in Georgia, GRU's hospitals are not taking any chances.

"It's really something were seriously worried about. That's why we implement our flu program," Dellsperger said.

Doctors say it's not too late to get your flu vaccine if you haven't already. They say most of the flu they're seeing is being covered by the vaccine, so it's likely to help.

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