Dougherty County man first flu-related death of 2013-14 flu season

The individual had underlying health conditions that raised his risks of flu complications

ALBANY — Officials from the Southwest Public Health District confirmed Thursday morning that a Dougherty County adult had become the district’s first flu fatality for the 2013-14 season.

The Georgia Department of Public Health has confirmed more than 20 flu fatalities statewide this season.

“Our sympathy goes out to his family and friends,” said Dr. Jacqueline Grant, director of the health district.

Grant said that the man had received treatment at a hospital and had underlying health conditions that raised his risk of complications from flu.

“We don’t know at this time whether he had been vaccinated against the flu,” she said. “Vaccination is the best protection against flu, and it is not too late to get vaccinated.”

Flu season peaks here this month and in February, but cases continue as late as May, officials with the health district say.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend an annual flu vaccine for everyone 6 months and older as the first and best way to protect against influenza. Grant noted that this year’s vaccine is a good match for the viruses in circulation this season, with the predominant strain in the United States, and Georgia, this year being H1N1.

Health officials say those most at risk for complications from H1N1 include children and young adults, pregnant women, the obese and people with conditions such as diabetes, asthma, HIV/AIDS or a history of cancer, stroke or heart disease. Others at risk include older adults and health care workers. Flu symptoms include fever (usually high), headache, extreme tiredness, a dry cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose and muscle aches.

Stomach symptoms are also common, especially in children, officials say.

Besides getting the flu vaccine, other actions officials encourage people to do to protect against the flu include:

— Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze.

— Wash your hands often with soap and water. Use an alcohol-based rub if soap and water are not available.

— People who are sick with flu-like illness should stay home for at least 24 hours after their fever is gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.

For more information about the seasonal flu vaccine, individuals are encouraged to contact their county health department, or go to www.southwestgeorgiapublichealth.org or www.cdc.gov.