ATLANTA, GA — At least 13 children have died nationwide as nearly half the country is experiencing widespread flu activity, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in its latest update. According to the CDC, widespread flu activity was reported in 24 states, including Georgia.

Classifying flu as “widespread” means influenza has been documented in at least half the regions of the state with recent laboratory evidence backing that up, according to the CDC.

The flu can cause serious illness, hospitalization, and death. The groups most at risk are older adults, very young children, pregnant women and those with certain chronic medical conditions, according to the CDC.

Georgia has seen four flu-related deaths since Sept. 30, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health. One of those who died was between the ages of 5 and 17, while three others were people 65 years and older.

There were 90 hospitalizations reported due to flu-like activity for the week ending Dec. 29, which is the latest data provided by the CDC. In addition, four outbreaks were documented.

For the whole flu season so far, Georgia health officials say there have been 440 hospitalizations for flu-like illness in the eight-county metro Atlanta area (Fulton, DeKalb, Clayton, Cobb, Douglas, Gwinnett, Rockdale, and Newton).

The CDC’s influenza-like-illness (ILI) surveillance measures the level of flu activity within a state. According to the latest ILI data, 19 states have high flu activity, including Georgia.

The A(H1N1) viruses have predominated in most parts of the country, but the A(H3N2) viruses have predominated in the southeastern U.S. The CDC says it is too soon to assess how severe this flu season will be, but since the H1N1 virus emerged in 2009 it has been associated with significant illness and severe illness among young children.

While the length of a flu season can vary, the average flu season over the last five years has lasted 16 weeks. The CDC said it expects that elevated flu activity will continue for weeks and advised that it’s not too late to get vaccinated.

About 80 percent of children who die due to the flu are not vaccinated, according to the CDC. The agency cited a study that says the vaccine reduces the risk of death among healthy children by 65 percent and among children with a high-risk condition by 50 percent.

It takes about two weeks for the vaccine to provide protection against the flu. You can find more information about the flu vaccine and its benefits here.

You can use the CDC’s flu vaccine finder to locate a pharmacy or clinic near you that provides the vaccine:

According to the CDC, symptoms of the flu include:

  • Fever or feeling feverish/chills (Though not everyone with flu will have a fever)
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue (tiredness)

Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.
By Patch editors Feroze Dhanoa and Elizabeth Janney