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ATLANTA -- A day after the Centers for Disease Control announced Georgia and the south are in the midst of a flu epidemic, state and local health officials are weighing in.

The Georgia Department of Public Health reports the number of people hospitalized with flu symptoms in metro Atlanta has soared in recent weeks, the latest sign of a widespread flu outbreak.

The health department spokesperson, Nancy Nydam,said 244 people were hospitalized during a recent four-week period in metro Atlanta. During the same four-week period last year, there were just eight hospitalizations.

Dr. Patrice Harris, director of Fulton County Health Services and a district health director, said last season was considered a mild one for flu activity.

During the H1N1 pandemic of 2009, there were 127 hospitalizations during the same four-week period.

The hospitalizations underscore the severity of the flu, which is striking Georgia harder this season than at any time in the past decade.

Harris said while it looks like we are approaching the peak of flu season, people should still be vaccinated.

"If we know anything about the flu virus it is that it can be unpredictable. Vaccinations insure we can stop the spread of the flu sooner rather than later," said Harris.

According to Dr. Matthew McKenna, Director of Health Services in Fulton County, more people in general are sucepitble to the flu this year.

"This time it isa totally different influenza A virus predominant strain known as H3N2 and the problem is most of the people in the community were born after the last time this virus came through the population," said McKenna.

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