With an early peak of cases, flu raises concerns in CSRA

Published: Dec. 1, 2022 at 3:30 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 1, 2022 at 6:47 PM EST
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - We’ve been reporting about RSV for weeks, but those numbers are trending down, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Right now, the virus that’s trending upward in the two-state region is flu.

And it doesn’t appear to be leaving anytime soon.

Sore throats, stuffy noses, body aches, and chest discomfort are all walking through the hospital doors here in Augusta.

“In the Augusta area, we normally see a peak of the flu season, occurring in January. And we’re seeing those types of volumes, but have been seeing those in November,” said Vice President, and Chief Medical Officer of the Augusta University Health System, Dr. Phillip Coule.

Right now, Georgia has gone from a “high” to a “very high” level of flu cases, according to the CDC nationwide flu assessment. On the low end of the “very high” spectrum, Georgia is represented by a blood-red color on a map from the agency.

Across Georgia, 14 people have died from the flu since Oct. 8 and at least 1,000 have been hospitalized, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health.

CDC FLU MAP:

Here's the latest available flu map from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Here's the latest available flu map from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.(Contributed)

If you think that’s bad, then consider the fact that South Carolina is one notch above Georgia in the “very high” rating, represented by a maroon color that’s one notch lower than the highest level the CDC measures.

South Carolina has seen 14 flu deaths and 752 hospitalizations this season, according to the state Department of Health and Environmental Control.

The advice is universal from the CDC, as well as Georgia and South Carolina state health officials: Get a flu shot.

You may still catch the flu, but the case should be milder if you’ve had a shot.

While RSV has been top of the worry list for many parents, Coule says cases are actually subsiding but flu continues to rise.

“We have seen some record volumes in our emergency department with respiratory flu-like illnesses,” he said.

While there are two strains circulating, H3N2 remains dominant.

“It is possible that we will have peaked out on one strain of the flu and may see a second peak of that occurring and our normal kind of flu peak, which would be in January,” he said.

Coule says the early peak could be due to COVID.

“It’s unclear exactly why we’re seeing this. Some of this is certainly the impact of wearing a mask and having strict social distancing, that we’re now relaxing,” he said.

It’s putting the ones they are most concerned about in the hospital.

“Children under the age of 5 as well as those that are over 65 tend to be at the greatest risk from the flu. And those populations are the ones that were concerned the most about during an outbreak like this,” said Coule.

Right now, CDC data shows the flu vaccine coverage for children this year is only 24.8%. And last year around this time, it was 25.2%.

Fighting flu

  • Frequently and thoroughly wash your hands with soap and warm water or else use alcohol-based sanitizing gels.
  • When you have to cough or sneeze, do it into the crook of your elbow or arm.
  • Avoid touching your face.
  • Stay home and keep away from common areas of your house if you’re sick.