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Flu season peaks earlier than usual
When gathering with loved ones during the holidays, keep in mind that you might be sharing more than just good tidings.

Respiratory illnesses like influenza can be transmitted in close quarters, and protecting yourself is paramount to your health.

Georgia and the Southeast are seeing an extremely high and early peak in flu-like illnesses, said Beth Hausauer, immunization program coordinator for the Coastal Health District, which includes Glynn County.

"We are at a high activity level right now," Hausauer said. "We didn't get into that level of activity at all last year, and this is a really early peak."

An early peak in reported flu-like illnesses could signal a rougher than average flu season.

"We usually peak in January and February, but this year we saw a peak in late November and early December," Hausauer said. "People don't think about (the flu) when it's warm, but this shows it can happen all year round."

Flu-like symptoms such as runny noses and scratchy throats can feel like small colds, but one distinguishing factor separates the two.

"It's a totally different feeling, and the big thing we're seeing is muscle or body aches," Hausauer said. "People are reporting soreness and tightness with headaches and fevers."

The flu, she added, isn't something you can work or go about your day with.

"It just stops you in your tracks," she added. "And it can bring complications like pneumonia and bronchitis or exacerbate chronic conditions."

The best prevention and protection is the flu vaccine, Hausauer said.

"We know this year that the flu vaccine is shown to be a match for the flu type we're seeing here," Hausauer said. "That's good. It shows it can protect against it. Vaccines are the best way "

Before being around family members this holiday season, Hausauer suggests getting vaccinated for the flu and taking extra care by keeping hands washed and coughs protected.

"When you're indoors and in close quarters, it's important," she said. "Get vaccinated and the earlier the better."

State health officials recommend anyone older than 6 months be vaccinated. The Glynn County Health Department offers injectable, nasal mist, high dose and intradermal vaccines.

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