Researchers at Georgia Tech and Emory University are teaming up to develop the patch.

Flu season showing first signs of slowing down 

Flu activity remains widespread, but there are signs this brutal flu season may beginning to wane. 

As of the week ending Feb. 17, the Georgia Department of Public Health said 11.9 percent of patient visits to doctors were for the flu, down from 15.2 percent of patient visits the week before.

The number of new flu-related hospitalizations reported added up to 91, down from 165 during the previous week. 

But the season is far from over. And the intensity of the flu season continues to take its toll. 

Georgia’s death toll from flu this season now stands at 98, a figure which includes four children, according to the latest report. 

Earlier this week, Dr. James Steinberg, chief medical officer at Emory University Hospital Midtown in Atlanta, called this flu season,“the worst season I can recall.” He’s been the chief medical officer there for 12 years and an infectious disease specialist for the past three decades.

“Worst season in terms of burden of illness, overall volume and the total volume causing major stress in the emergency room, in-patient services and in critical care units,” he said. 

For the first time, Grady Memorial Hospital set up a mobile emergency department outside to help handle flu patients.

The total number of flu-related hospitalizations in metro Atlanta now stands at 2,034. 

The total hospitalizations in metro Atlanta this season is far more than the totals during recent years and even dwarfs the 2014-2015 season, which was considered another severe flu season. The total number of hospitalizations in metro Atlanta during the 2014-2015 season climbed to 1,460 for the entire season ending in May.

Health officials are urging people who have not been vaccinated to do so. The request came with greater emphasis when late last week they learned that data showed the flu vaccine this year was somewhat more effective than previously thought.

This 2011 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention photo shows the H3N2 strain of the flu. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Photo: American-Statesman Staff

This season, the predominant flu strain is H3N2, a form of influenza A. This flu strain is associated with more severe illness, especially among children and the elderly. This strain is included in this year’s flu vaccine, but viruses can change and this particular strain tends to mutate more than other strains.

Experts say even if the vaccine is not a perfect match, the vaccine can still help lessen the severity of the flu, and reduce the chance of experiencing severe complications from the flu. Getting a vaccine can also reduce the length of the flu if you do get sick.

While the number of H3N2 cases may be starting to dip, Steinberg and other doctors said they are also seeing an uptick of the influenza B strain. The flu vaccine is believed to provide greater protection against influenza B. 

“It’s not too late to get the vaccine, that’s definitely the first thing I would tell people,” said Steinberg.

Dr. Cherie Drenzek, Georgia’s state epidemiologist, said if you do get sick and think you may have the flu, contact your health care provider right away, particularly if you or family members are at high risk for serious flu complications — young children (under the age of 5), those over 65, pregnant women and those with chronic health conditions such as diabetes or asthma. Even young, healthy adults should call their doctor if symptoms don’t improve or get worse after three to four days of illness. There are antivirals such as Tamiflu or Relenza that can help reduce the duration of flu symptoms but the medication needs to be started within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms to be most effective.

Nurses Kristy Haynes, left, and Crysta Swift look over supplies inside a mobile emergency room set up outside Grady Memorial Hospital to help handle the ever-growing number of flu cases in Atlanta, Monday, Jan. 29, 2018.
Photo: David Goldman/AP


According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, emergency warning signs for people to go to the ER include:

Trouble breathing

Chest pain

Persistent vomiting

Flu-like symptoms that improve but return with fever and a worse cough


Cough into the inside of your elbow, not the open air

Get a flu shot (everyone 6 months of age and older)

Avoid infected people if possible

Wash hands frequently

Ariel Hart contributed to this article

MORE: Have the flu? Atlanta archbishop advises ill Catholics to skip Mass 

MORE: 8 things you need to know about this year’s really bad flu season   

READ: The agony of ER waits: Flu season is making them worse 

READ: Father of Coweta teen who died of flu asks, “Why?” 

Click this link to check out the wait times: 

 Ariel Hart contributed to this article. 

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