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H1N1 hospitalizations, deaths rise statewide

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

State health officials are urging Georgia residents to get vaccinated for the novel Type-A H1N1 influenza virus, which spread rampantly through some populations last spring and summer.

"We are asking all Georgians to remain vigilant about the H1N1 virus and its complications," said Rony Francois, director of the Georgia Department of Community Health's (DCH) Division of Public Health.

The DCH reported this month that there has been an increase in H1N1, exhibited partly in the number of H1N1-associated hospitalization cases reported across the state. State health officials indicate that there have been more than 150 such cases, so far this month.

There have been a total of 1,012 reported H1N1-associated hospitalizations in Georgia, since the department began keeping the records in April 2009, according to DCH Spokeswoman Ravae Graham. Since that time, Graham added, there have been 72 flu-associated deaths in the state.

Graham said children are "one of the most vulnerable populations affected by H1N1, and it is vitally important that some of them receive the required two doses of the 2009 H1N1 vaccine."

Georgia is currently one of a handful of states -- including Mississippi and Alabama -- on a list compiled by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) with regional, or significant, influenza activity.

The CDC listed other states in the Southeast as having more moderate, local and sporadic flu activity, while states in the West, Northeast, and Midwest regions have demonstrated little, or no activity.

Graham noted that the H1N1 virus continues to circulate in Georgia, and may continue to circulate for many months to come. She said the state experienced a first wave of flu activity last spring, which peaked with a second wave in September 2009.

"We aren't 100 percent sure that a third wave is occurring, or will occur, but if there is a third wave, it may happen in our state first," said Patrick O'Neal, the director of DCH's Division of Emergency Preparedness & Response. "What we do know is that residents need to continue taking precautions against the flu, and seek vaccination, if they haven't been vaccinated."

Residents can find more information about flu prevention, and what facilities have the H1N1 vaccine available, by using the Georgia Division of Public Health's online H1N1 Influenza Vaccine Provider Locator, at http://health.state.ga.us/h1n1flu.