With flu hitting Georgia early and hard, doctor recommends getting vaccinated soon

If you haven't had a flu shot, you may want to get one soon.

Georgia now has the highest level of flu activity in the US, with the virus hitting earlier than it has in years.

Bracing for a severe flu season, Dr. Cecil Bennett of Newnan Family Medicine says he is pushing his patients coming in for appointments to get vaccinated during their visit.

"I can't look at this person said this person is going to be hospitalized, this person is going to die, this person is going to do well," Dr. Bennett says. " There's just no way to really do that. So, the safest thing to do is to get your flu vaccine."

In an average year, the flu kills about 36,000 Americans, according to CDC estimates.

As of October 8, 2022, the Georgia Department of Public Health says 5.6 % of visits to health providers are for influenza-like illness, with young children and younger adults seeing the highest level of infections.

It can be hard to know if you have the flu or COVID-19 because both can cause similar symptoms.

The CDC says the most common symptoms for both flu and COVID-19 are fever and chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue and sore throat.

Other symptoms can include runny or stuffy nose, muscle pain or body aches and headache.

If you develop flu-like symptoms, Dr. Bennett says, see your provider, who can run a test to determine which virus you have and whether you need a prescription antiviral.

"Because just looking at the patient, it is impossible to say that this is the flu or this is a cold or this is COVID. Subjective testing will let us know for sure, and we target that treatment."

This year, for the first time, the CDC is recommending adults 65 and older get a high-dose flu vaccine,  to boost their immune response. 
Dr. Bennett says it is safe to get a flu shot and an COVID-19 omicron booster at the same time.

"I'm pushing that my patients get both because this new COVID vaccine is specific for this Omicron variant," Bennett says.  "And, given this severe flu season, the last thing we need are more people going to the hospital."