North Central Health District


Flu (Influenza)

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What is the Flu?

The flu (influenza) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and sometimes the lungs. The flu can lead to mild or severe symptoms and serious cases of the virus can lead to hospitalization or death. While the flu can affect anyone throughout the year, the season usually peaks in Georgia from late December to early March.

The virus spreads through droplets created by the coughing, sneezing and even talking of someone with the flu. People can also get the flu by touching an object or a surface that has the virus on it, then touching their mouth, nose or eyes. The virus can spread before an infected person even knows they are sick. People are most contagious 3-4 days after the illness begins, by may infect other 1 day before symptoms develop and up to a week after becoming sick.

Symptoms of Flu

Once a person has been exposed to the virus, it can take between 1 and 4 days for symptoms to show. People affected by the flu can experience some or all of these symptoms:

  • Fever, feeling feverish or chills
  • Sore throat and coughs
  • Stuffy or runny nose
  • Aches across the body and muscles
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting and diarrhea (more common in children than adults)

Most people who are infected with the virus will recover in several days to two weeks. However, some people are at high risk of developing flu-related complications. There is a wide variety of complications related to the flu that include:

  • Sinus, ear and upper respiratory tract infection
  • Pneumonia
  • Organ failure
  • Increased severity of chronic medical conditions
  • Death

Who is at Risk?

While everyone is at risk to catch the flu, most people will only experience mild symptoms without needing special medical care. However, some people have a high risk of developing severe symptoms and complications from the virus. Who has a high risk of flu complications?

  • Children younger than age 5, but children under age 2 have an even higher risk
  • Adults aged 65 and older
  • Pregnant woment
  • Nursing home residents and people living in other long-term care environments
  • People who have chronic medical conditions

Preventing the Flu

Get your annual flu vaccine.

  • Vaccination is the first and most important step in flu prevention.
  • Flu shots protect against multiple, common flu viruses.
  • Everyone 6 months of age or older should get a flu shot.
  • Adults over age 65 and people with weakened immune systems should get a high-dose shot.
  • People should get vaccinated before the flu season (in October), but it is never too late to get a shot.

Stop germs from spreading.

  • Avoid contact with sick people; if you are sick, stay home.
  • If you experience flu-like illness, stay home at least 24 hours after your fever is gone without the use of fever-reducing medications.
  • Always cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze or cough and throw used tissues in the trash.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based sanitizer.
  • Disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated.
  • Do not touch your nose, mouth or eyes.

Make an Appointment Today

Call your nearest health department to ask questions or make an appointment!

Common Flu Questions and Answers
  • Is it too late to get the flu vaccine?
    • No, it is not too late! Local health departments still have vaccine on hand and would be happy to provide this service for FREE while supplies last.
  • I thought the flu vaccine doesn’t work this year?
    • Even if you get the flu after you have received the flu shot, it has been shown to reduce the severity of the illness.
  • My family member, friend or co-worker was just diagnosed with flu, am I going to get it?
    • Influenza is spread by droplet respiratory transmission and the typical rule of thumb is anyone in the vicinity of 6 feet (which is how far infectious droplets can spread) from someone contagious is at risk. You are contagious up to 24 hours BEFORE your symptoms start and up to 1 WEEK after symptom start. The incubation period is between 1-4 days.
  • When should I go to the doctor?
    • Unless your symptoms are severe, like you’re are having trouble  breathing, are not able to bring a fever down, or you have symptoms of dehydration like extreme weakness or dizziness , you should try to avoid medical facilities.
    • If you think you may have influenza call your physician within the first 24-48 hours of symptoms and ask for a prescription for Tamiflu. If they require you to come in to see the physician, ask if they can provide you a mask.
    • Once filled, call your pharmacy and arrange to pick up that prescription without actually going in (i.e., drive thru, family member pick up). 
  • I have been diagnosed with flu, what should I do?
    • Stay home until you are fever-free without fever-reducing medications (like Tylenol, Motrin, etc.) for 24 hours.
    • Call your doctor about the option of Tamiflu (as soon as you can, as Tamiflu is only helpful within those first 48 hours).
    • You may also want to ask for a prescription of Tamiflu for any household members as well, this may be helpful in preventing illness in your close contacts.
    • Once filled, call your pharmacy and arrange to pick up that prescription without actually going in (i.e., drive thru, family member pick up.
  • What is Tamiflu? Is this a cure?
    • Tamiflu is a an antiviral medication that can make illness milder and shorten the time you are sick. It may also prevent serious flu complications.
  • What cleaning products can be used to fight the flu?

    • There have been recent news reports about various cleaning products that can be used to prevent the spread of infectious diseases like influenza and norovirus. Though we cannot recommend one product over another, we do recommend the use of EPA-approved disinfectants (antimicrobial products) that are only used in accordance with product labeling. EPA-registered antimicrobial products may not make efficacy claims against these pathogens unless the agency has reviewed data to support the claim and approved the claim on the label. For more information, visit the EPA’s page of approved products for recommendations.
  • Who should I report clusters of influenza in schools, long term care facilities, jails, etc?
    • North Central Health District Epidemiology
      • Email:
      • Phone: 478-751-6303 Ask for Epidemiology
      • After hours: 1-866-PUB-HLTH (1-866-782-4584)
      • Fax: 478-752-1710 or 478-751-6074
Information for Schools and Daycares


Note on Closures:

  • We are aware of the increased concern about the spread of influenza and other infectious diseases in our school systems. Public Health works closely with our Boards of Education and private school partners to assist them with their infection control needs. Decisions about school closings are made by individual schools and school systems. Due to the variety of factors that come in to play during influenza season and per CDC guidance, we do not recommend he closing of schools based on student absenteeism. If a school has an increase in faculty and staff absenteeism that cannot support adequate school operations, the school and/or school system may elect to close. The CDC provides guidance that specifically addresses strategies to keep flu out of schools and provides additional guidance for school administrators.

Report all flu clusters to NCHD at 478-751-6303 or via the State Electronic Notifiable Disease Surveillance System. For more reporting options, visit our Epidemiology and Infectious Disease page.

Learn about our related health services:

Pregnancy Testing
STD/HIV Testing
Women's Wellness
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