Five people are dead from flu-related illnesses and another 300 have been hospitalized, the Georgia Department of Public Health said on Friday,
In the midst of what federal health officials are calling an increase in flu-related illnesses, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey has declared a public health emergency.
According to NBC affiliate WSFA, Ivey's declaration directed the state’s department of public health and the emergency management agency to seek federal assistance.
It also allows health care facilities that have invoked their emergency operation plans to implement their "alternative standard of care" plans to combat the outbreak.
Dr. Dan Jernigan, director of the influenza division at the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said this year’s outbreak is similar in size and scope to the 2012-13 and 2014-15 seasons.
“The flu is everywhere in the United States, and this strain is similar to the ones we registered in those seasons that resulted in more illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths,” Jernigan said in a Centers for Disease Control media briefing. “This week there was an average of 22.7 hospitalizations per 100,000 people in the U.S., double since last week.”
Georgia health officials said the predominant strain of flu circulating in Georgia and around the country is influenza A (H3N2).
"This strain can be particularly hard on the very young, people over age 65, or those with existing medical conditions," the department said. "3N2 is one of the strains contained in this year’s flu vaccine along with two or three others, depending on the vaccine."
Jernigan said this year’s flu season “seems to be peaking now, but we know from history that it will take many more weeks for reported cases to begin falling.”
Jernigan also said numbers of flu-related illnesses are increasing in the over-age 65 and age 50-64 brackets.
“The number of cases affecting children under age 5 has doubled in the last week,” he said.
Late Friday, the Georgia Department of Health said it had confirmed five flu-related deaths in the state.
Flu symptoms and their intensity can vary from person to person, and can include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. If you think you have the flu, call or visit your doctor, officials urge.
Things you can do to help prevent the spread of the flu (Source: Georgia Dept. of Health):
• Frequent and thorough hand-washing with soap and warm water. Alcohol based gels are the next best thing if you don’t have access to soap and water.
• Cover your nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing to help prevent the spread of the flu. Use a tissue or cough or sneeze into the crook of your elbow or arm.
• Avoid touching your face as flu germs can get into the body through mucus membranes of the nose, mouth and eyes.
• If you are sick, stay home from school or work. Flu sufferers should be free of a fever, without the use of a fever reducer, for at least 24 hours before returning to school or work.