ATLANTA (AP) — The number of people hospitalized with flu symptoms in metro Atlanta has soared in recent weeks, the latest sign of a widespread flu outbreak in the state.
During a recent four-week period, 244 people were hospitalized in metro Atlanta, the Georgia Department of Public Health reported. Two people have died so far.
During the same four-week period last year, there were just eight hospitalizations, heath department spokeswoman Nancy Nydam said.
During the H1N1 pandemic of 2009, there were 127 hospitalizations during the same four-week period, she said.
The hospitalizations underscore the severity of the flu, which is striking Georgia harder this season than at any time in the past decade, health officials said.
They also represent a dramatic increase over the flu season a year ago, which was considered a mild one for flu activity, said Dr. Patrice Harris, director of Fulton County Health Services and a district health director.
"We actually are seeing widespread activity all around the state," said Dr. Cherie Drenzek, state epidemiologist.
Every flu season is different, Drenzek said, and officials have seen a very high level of flu activity early on this season.
Drenzek said it's not too late to get vaccinated for the flu. "It's still a great time to get vaccinated," she said.
"What we have heard is that there have been some reports of spotty and temporary flu vaccine shortages, so maybe one facility may not have it but if someone calls another facility, they may have it... So don't give up, call the next place," Drenzek said. "There hasn't been any indication that there's been an overall flu vaccine shortage."
In Fulton County, 2,606 doses of vaccine are on hand and are being distributed at health clinics throughout the county, Harris said.
It's too early to know whether Georgia has reached its peak in terms of flu activity, health officials said.