ATLANTA – The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) is working closely with the CDC,
and state partners to prepare for a potential outbreak of COVID-19 in the U.S., including
Georgia. The goal is to quickly identify cases of COVID-19 and take the appropriate public
health action to reduce its spread and protect the general public. It is important to note that at
this time, the overall risk of COVID-19 to the general public remains low.
“We urge Georgians to prepare for hurricanes or flooding or take measures to prevent flu, so
preparing for an outbreak of COVID-19 is no different,” said Kathleen E. Toomey, M.D., M.P.H.,
DPH commissioner. “DPH is working to make sure our health systems, first responders and
county health departments have the resources they need to respond to a COVID-19 outbreak.”
DPH already has a detailed pandemic flu plan that was developed in partnership with the
Georgia Emergency Management Agency, the Georgia Department of Education and other
state agencies, and will be adapted for a COVID-19 outbreak in the state. DPH has responded
to other serious disease outbreaks, including Ebola and Zika virus and each instance has
provided new insight and guidance and highlighted the need to be as prepared as we can be.
DPH Emergency Preparedness and Response (EPR) is providing CDC information and
guidance about COVID-19 to all health care and hospital facilities throughout Georgia, and
holding weekly calls with the entire public health and hospital/health care community to update
information and answer questions.
DPH epidemiologists are on-call 24/7 to help health care providers evaluate individuals
presenting with symptoms of COVID-19 to ensure that possible cases are managed safely,
support laboratory testing and implement recommendations from the CDC. In the event of
COVID-19 in Georgia, epidemiologists would also be monitoring outbreaks and recommending
control strategies, including guidance regarding testing and isolation.
Should it become necessary, DPH may recommend appropriate community mitigation
measures for affected communities, such as temporary closure of child care facilities and
schools/colleges and universities, school and workplace social distancing measures, and
postponement or cancellation of mass gatherings. Additionally, businesses should consider
ways to implement strategies to reduce the impact of a potential COVID-19 outbreak on their
workforce, including teleworking and cross-training employees on essential job functions.
The same measures that are urged to prevent the spread of any respiratory virus are
increasingly important for all Georgians:
• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water
are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
• Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
• Stay home when you are sick.
• Cough or sneeze into your elbow or use a tissue to cover it, then throw the tissue in the
• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
The best prevention against the flu is vaccination. Flu is still widespread and active in Georgia –
it’s not too late to get a flu shot.
Passenger screening at Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport is ongoing. This is to
identify people coming from China who may have been exposed to and are at risk of developing
COVID-19, and to provide appropriate assessment and monitoring to protect the general public.
COVID-19 is rapidly evolving and guidance is subject to change. The preparations currently
underway in Georgia are based on the best scientific information we have from the CDC. DPH
will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation, and work with state partners and health care
communities to incorporate the most up to date guidance in our planning and preparation
DPH will continue to update Georgians through our website, our Facebook page and our Twitter account. It is
important to remember that the most accurate and timely information regarding this outbreak is
available through DPH or the CDC’s website.
About the Georgia Department of Public Health
The Georgia Department of Public Health is the lead agency in preventing disease, injury and
disability; promoting health and well-being; and preparing for and responding to disasters from a
health perspective. For more information about DPH, visit www.dph.ga.gov.
Drive-thru Flu Shot Clinics Coming to North Georgia in October
Roll in, roll up a sleeve and arm against the flu!
North Georgia – It will soon be that time of year again, North Georgians. The opportunity to drive through and beat the flu at one of six public health Drive-thru Flu Shot Clinics is coming in October!
The Drive-thru Flu Shot Clinics, conducted annually by county public health departments in North Georgia, are scheduled this year, as follows:
Cherokee: Tuesday, October 1st, 9 A.M. – 2 P.M., Woodstock City Church: 150 Ridgewalk Parkway, Woodstock, GA. Call (770) 928-0133 or (770) 345-7371 for more details.
Whitfield: Tuesday, October 1st, 8 A.M. – 5 P.M., Dalton Convention Center: 2211 Dug Gap Battle Road, Dalton, GA. Call (706) 279-9600 for more details.
Gilmer: Wednesday, October 2nd, 8 A.M. – 3 P.M., Pleasant Grove Baptist Church: 115 Pleasant Grove Road, Ellijay, GA. Call (706) 635-4363 for more details.
Fannin: Thursday, October 3rd, 9 A.M. – 3 P.M., The Farmers Market: East First Street, Blue Ridge, GA. Call (706) 632-3023 for more details.
Pickens: Tuesday, October 8th, 8:30 A.M. – 3 P.M., Mt. Zion Baptist Church: 1036 North Main Street, Jasper, GA. Call (706) 253-2821 for more details.
Murray: Tuesday, October 15th, 8 A.M. – 6 P.M., Murray County Parks and Recreation Department: 651 Hyden Tyler Road, Chatsworth, GA. Call (706) 695-4585 for more details.
Since 2008, public health departments in Cherokee, Fannin, Gilmer, Murray, Pickens and Whitfield counties have made it possible for residents to roll in, roll up a sleeve and arm themselves against the flu safely, quickly and conveniently while seated in their vehicles.
The Drive-thru Flu Shot Clinics serve people ages 18 and over.
The types of flu vaccine offered at the clinics are the four-in-one quadrivalent flu vaccine and the high-dose vaccine for people sixty-five and older.
Quadrivalent flu vaccine protects people against four different strains of flu, including two influenza A viruses and two influenza B viruses.
High-dose flu vaccine is for people 65 years of age and older and contains four times the amount of protective antigen for immune systems that tend to weaken with age.
The vaccine is no-cost for anyone under one of several acceptable health insurance plans such as Medicare, Medicaid, Aetna, BlueCross BlueShield, United Healthcare, and others. For those without insurance coverage, the cost is still relatively low. The quadrivalent flu shot is $25 and the high-dose flu shot is $65. Cash will be accepted along with other forms of payment, depending on the county.
While arming residents against the flu at the Drive-thru Flu Shot Clinics, public health staff and community partners test their plans for standing up a temporary Point of Dispensing (POD) to rapidly administer medication during a public health crisis. Participating community partners include local law enforcement, volunteers, businesses and first responders such as the county Emergency Management Agency, Emergency Medical Services and Fire Department.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), flu vaccination can reduce flu illnesses, doctor visits, and missed days from work and school, and it can prevent flu-related hospitalizations. As people get vaccinated, they are not only protecting themselves, but they are also helping to prevent the spread of the flu to others, including older people, very young children, pregnant women and people with certain health conditions who are more vulnerable to serious flu complications.
The single best way to prevent the flu is to get a flu vaccination. The most convenient way to get that vaccination in North Georgia is at the nearest public health Drive-thru Flu Shot Clinic.
For additional details about the Drive-thru Flu Shot Clinics, contact one of the local county health departments listed above or log on here to the North Georgia Health District website.
To learn more about influenza and flu protection, log onto the CDC website at www.cdc.gov/flu/.
Get Vaccinated Now Before Flu Season Peaks
North Georgia – Last year, Georgia experienced one of the worst flu seasons in recent history. This year, even before the typical peak of flu season, the CDC reports that Georgia is already experiencing high and widespread numbers of flu-like illnesses and confirmed cases.
North Georgia Health District officials urge residents to vaccinate before the peak of flu season, which usually begins in this region by mid-January and lasts through the end of February, possibly longer. It takes a couple of weeks for flu vaccine to reach its full protective potential within the body, so now is a critical time to get the shot for those who still need one.
Influenza can be a serious disease that leads to hospitalization and sometimes death. Regardless of race, age, gender or ethnicity, anyone can get sick from the flu. Those especially at risk are adults 65 years of age and older, children younger than 5, pregnant women, and people with certain chronic diseases such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease or other long-term medical conditions.
Even healthy children and adults can get very sick from the flu, but flu vaccine is the best protection.
Both regular quadrivalent flu vaccine, which protects against the four strains of flu virus that are most commonly circulating this season, and high dose flu vaccine for people age 65 and older are available at local health departments in Cherokee, Fannin, Gilmer, Murray, Pickens and Whitfield Counties (contact information for each of these health departments is at www.nghd.org). The health departments accept several forms of health insurance as well as Medicare and Medicaid so that vaccination is cost-free to the client. For people without healthcare coverage, regular flu vaccine is $25 and high dose flu vaccine is $65.
Symptoms of seasonal flu may include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headache, tiredness and/or muscle aches. People who might have flu – particularly if they are in the groups listed above at risk for severe disease and complications – should seek medical care and start antiviral medication as soon as possible.
In addition to a flu shot, there are simple things anyone can do to help prevent getting or spreading the flu:
- Wash your hands and your children’s hands frequently, especially after contact with other people.
- Use a tissue to cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze and dispose of the tissue afterward, or cough or sneeze into your sleeve if no tissues are available.
- Clean your hands after you cough or sneeze, even if you use a tissue. Use soap and water or an alcohol-based hand cleaner if soap and water are not available and your hands are not visibly dirty.
- When possible, stay home if you get the flu.
- Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
But most importantly, before flu season peaks, people should make it a top priority to go to or call their county health department or health care provider to be vaccinated. For more information on immunization, visit the Georgia Department of Public Health website at http://dph.georgia.gov/influenza-what-you-need-know.
North Georgians Urged to take Extra Precautions as Viral Illnesses Increase
North Georgia – North Georgia Health District officials report that there has been an increase in the number of stomach virus and influenza outbreaks in north Georgia and warn that the results could be severe, possibly requiring hospitalization.
“It is not too late to vaccinate against the flu,” said Sherry Gregory, RN, North Georgia Health District Infectious Disease Supervisor. “Flu activity is increasing throughout our area. We expect the flu season to reach its peak early this year, within the next few weeks, so it is important to get vaccinated now. Flu vaccination not only protects the person who receives the vaccine but it also keeps them from spreading the flu virus to others.”
Everyone 6 months of age and older should be vaccinated against the flu. Flu vaccination is especially important for people who are at greater risk for complications from flu and those who live with or care for these individuals. Groups of people that are at high risk for flu complications include children younger than 5 years, adults 65 years and older, and pregnant women. Medical conditions such as asthma, chronic lung or heart disease and diabetes can also increase the risk for flu complications.
“Flu vaccine is available at all our health departments in Cherokee, Fannin, Gilmer, Murray, Pickens and Whitfield Counties,” said Gregory. For health department contact information, click on the LOCATIONS tab on the North Georgia Health District website at www.nghd.org.
Flu symptoms may include a fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue, and/or, possibly, vomiting and diarrhea.
People at higher risk for complications from the flu should seek medical care as soon as they begin to feel ill, even if they have been vaccinated. They could benefit from antiviral drugs, that can reduce the risk of experiencing complications and reduce the severity and duration of illness. Antiviral drugs are most effective when given early in the onset of illness.
Stomach viruses, such as Norovirus, are very contagious and can infect anyone. These viruses can be spread to others by an infected person, through contaminated food or water, or by touching contaminated surfaces. These viruses can cause the stomach and/or intestines to become inflamed, which leads to stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting. These symptoms can be serious for some people, especially young children and older adults.
To reduce the spread of influenza and stomach viruses, take everyday preventive actions(https://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/habits/index.htm) to stop spreading the viruses.
- Get a flu shot – this will protect you against the flu virus, which will be especially critical if you are infected with some other virus.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
- Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
- While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them, especially avoiding healthcare facilities and long-term care homes.
- Avoid having children inside healthcare facilities and long-term care homes to protect them from catching viruses and to prevent them from spreading viruses to the people who are there.
- If you are sick with flu-like illness, the CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone for 24 hours without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.)
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu.
For more information about influenza and its prevention, log onto to the CDC website at https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/index.html. Learn more about preventing the spread of stomach viruses at https://www.cdc.gov/norovirus/index.html.
ATLANTA – If you have not gotten a flu shot yet, do not wait any longer! Flu is widespread in Georgia, and more than 300 individuals have been hospitalized with flu-related illness. The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) has confirmed four flu-related deaths so far, but that number is expected to increase.
The predominant strain of flu circulating in Georgia and around the country is influenza A (H3N2). This strain can be particularly hard on the very young, people over age 65, or those with existing medical conditions. H3N2 is one of the strains contained in this year’s flu vaccine along with two or three others, depending on the vaccine.
“It is not too late to get a flu shot,” says J. Patrick O’Neal, M.D., DPH commissioner. “Every individual over the age of six months should get a flu vaccine – not just for their own protection, but to protect others around them who may be more vulnerable to the flu and its complications.”
Flu symptoms and their intensity can vary from person to person, and can include fever, cough,
sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. If you think you have
the flu, call or visit your doctor.
In some cases, healthcare providers may recommend the use of antivirals such as Tamiflu or Relenza. Antiviral drugs are prescription medicines (pills, liquid, an inhaled powder or an intravenous solution) that fight against the flu in your body. Antiviral drugs work best for treatment when they are started within two days of getting sick. Antivirals are used to treat those at high-risk for flu complications – young children, the elderly, individuals with underlying medical conditions and women who are pregnant. Most otherwise-healthy people who get the flu, however, do not need to be treated with antiviral drugs.
There are other things you can do to help prevent the spread of flu – tried and true measures your mother taught you:
• Frequent and thorough hand-washing with soap and warm water.
Alcohol based gels are the next best thing if you don’t have access
to soap and water;
• Cover your nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing to help
prevent the spread of the flu. Use a tissue or cough or sneeze into the
crook of your elbow or arm;
• Avoid touching your face as flu germs can get into the body through
mucus membranes of the nose, mouth and eyes; and
• If you are sick, stay home from school or work. Flu sufferers should
be free of a fever, without the use of a fever reducer, for at least 24
hours before returning to school or work.
If you are caring for a sick individual at home, keep them away from common areas of the house and other people as much as possible. If you have more than one bathroom, have the sick person use one and well people use the other. Clean the sick room and the bathroom once a day with household disinfectant. Thoroughly clean linens, eating utensils, and dishes used by the sick person before re-using. To learn more about influenza, log on to www.flu.gov.
About the Georgia Department of Public Health:
The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) is the lead agency in preventing disease, injury and disability, promoting health and well-being, and preparing for and responding to disasters. DPH’s main functions include: Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, Maternal and Child Health, Infectious Disease and Immunization, Environmental Health, Epidemiology, Emergency Preparedness and Response, Emergency Medical Services, Pharmacy, Nursing, Volunteer Health Care, the Office of Health Equity, Vital Records, and the State Public Health Laboratory.
For more information about DPH, visit www.dph.ga.gov.