ROME, GA: Public health officials with the Georgia Department of Public Health Northwest Health District are urging Northwest Georgians to protect themselves, their families, and those around them by getting vaccinated against influenza as the state enters flu season while experiencing a surge of COVID-19 caused by the Delta variant.
“COVID-19 is still here, still sending Northwest Georgians to the hospital with severe illness and still causing deaths. As flu season begins, we all need to do what we can to be as healthy as possible,” said Dr. Gary Voccio, health director for the ten-county Northwest Health District. “It is critically important to get your flu vaccine and your COVID-19 vaccine, and you can get both at the same time. Flu can be a serious and sometimes deadly disease. Getting vaccinated can prevent you from getting ill and keep you from needing a hospital bed.”
The Bartow County Health Department, 100 Zena Drive SE, Cartersville, is now offering flu shots on a walk-in basis. “You can get a flu shot by walking in at your health department any time during regular business hours Monday through Friday,” says health department nurse manager Cyndi Carter. “We have the quadrivalent vaccine, which provides broader protection against circulating flu viruses, and if you haven’t already done so, you can also get a COVID-19 vaccine at the same time.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends flu vaccination for everyone 6 months and older with any licensed, age-appropriate flu vaccine. Vaccination against the flu can make illness milder and reduce the risk of more serious outcomes, making it especially important for those at higher risk of complications, such as people over 65, children younger than 5, pregnant women and those with certain medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease or obesity. Some of those same groups are also at high risk of complications from COVID-19.
Flu vaccinations are available at hospitals, pharmacies, private medical offices, some federally qualified health care centers as well as at all ten Northwest Georgia county health departments. COVID-19 vaccines may now be administered at the same time as other vaccines, including the flu vaccine, for those who need both. This fall and winter – don’t wait to vaccinate for flu and COVID-19.
In Georgia, flu infections are most common from late fall to early spring, with activity usually peaking in January or February. The following precautions should be taken to protect against the spread of flu and other viruses like COVID-19:
- Stay home when sick until fever-free for at least 24 hours. Those with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 should follow CDC guidance for end of isolation.
- Wash hands frequently with soap and water.
- Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue and then discard the tissue promptly.
- Continue to practice the 3 Ws — wearing a face covering over your nose and mouth, waiting 6 feet apart, and washing your hands often can help slow the spread of COVID-19 and flu.
COVID-19 and flu symptoms are similar, so individuals who feel ill should call ahead before going to a doctor’s office, local health department or urgent care. They should consult with a doctor about getting tested for flu and/or COVID-19. Flu symptoms include:
- Cough and/or sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Headaches and/or body aches
- Nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea (most common in children)
Anyone who thinks they have the flu should contact their doctor right away to see if they need treatment with a prescription antiviral drug, such as Tamiflu. Early treatment with an antiviral drug can help prevent flu infections from becoming more serious. Treatment with a prescription antiviral drug is especially important for hospitalized patients, people with severe flu illness and those who are at high risk of serious flu complications based on their age or health. Treatment is also available for those with COVID-19 who are at higher risk for severe infections.
More information about flu is available online at Georgia Department of Public Health and at cdc.gov/flu.