Prepare yourselves — flu season is here in full force. And it’s bad this year, as I’m sure you’ve heard. If you live in the busy city of Atlanta, like I do with the other 5.7 million people that live, breathe, and touch things here, you may be wondering, “Are you in danger of the flu in Atlanta?” The answer is pretty simple — yes — for a lot of reasons. Like even though our public transportation system sucks, a lot of people still try to use it when they can, and it can get packed. So you may want to read up on some preventative measures you can take before touching that handle on MARTA while standing close to all 50 of your closest friends on the train (since there aren’t that many trains available to spread us out), or even before running to Kroger or Publix and interacting with potentially germ-filled people.
So yes, you are in danger of the flu in Atlanta. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this flu has been the worst and most widespread than we’ve seen in years, reaching almost all 50 states — Georgia included. Specifically, as of Jan. 19, the Georgia Weekly Influenza Report from the Georgia Department of Health stated that in the second week of January, there was “high influenza-like illness intensity with widespread occurrences throughout Georgia.” And that would include Atlanta. Additionally, “there were 40 hospitalizations due to influenza infections during week two, and 404 hospitalizations due to influenza so far this season," the report read. How ironic, since that's the Atlanta area code, but I digress. Horrifically, there have been 12 confirmed deaths for the 2017 to 2018 season in Georgia alone, according to the report. “Of the 1,690 specimens tested by Georgia clinical laboratories reporting to the National Respiratory and Enteric Virus Surveillance System (NREVSS) during week two, 26 percent were positive for influenza,” the report also noted.
Now, before you start trying to sanitize your babysitter or anyone else before they come into your home or near you, there are some tips of prevention and warning signs the CDC provides on their website. The CDC recommended getting the flu vaccine as soon as possible. Even though there have been reports the vaccine has only been 10 to 30 percent effective, it still makes the flu less severe and it goes away quicker if you do get vaccinated. Other recommendations include avoiding close contact with sick people; covering your nose and mouth with your arm or a tissue (and encouraging others to do so) when sneezing and coughing; washing your hands frequently with hot water and soap and using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer; avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth; and cleaning and disinfecting surfaces frequently. Other natural ways to try to prevent the flu include eating a healthy diet with a lot of fruits and vegetables, getting enough sleep, and even taking elderberry syrup, which has been shown in some small studies to boost your immune system.
If you do get the flu, don’t worry, unless you’re considered a high-risk person — children younger than 5, but especially younger than 2, adults older than 65, pregnant women, American-Indian or Alaska Native — you should be just fine and probably won’t need a hospital visit. Just make sure you take the antiviral drugs your doctor prescribes to treat it, like the CDC suggested.
While you are in danger of getting the flu in Atlanta, like anywhere, it’s not necessarily the end of the world. Go to the doctor as soon as you think you may be showing flu symptoms so the antiviral medication will work best. Wash your hands, cover your mouth, eat healthy, keep hand sanitizer on hand at all times, and cross your fingers until this wretched flu season passes. May the odds be ever in your favor.
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