COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - As a brutal flu season continues to spread across the country and the Muscogee County Coroner's office confirms at least five cases have shown "flu-like symptoms" before dying.
Columbus health officials say their message is urgent and is to protect you and your family from contracting the virus.
"People do need to get their flu vaccine. Even though its already January we are still right in the thick of flu season," says the information coordinator for the Columbus Health Department, Pamela Kirkland.
Kirkland says although this flu season has been aggressive, staying cautious on contracting the flu and getting your flu shot is a must.
"Even if you do get the flu, the shot will lessen your symptoms and the time that you are sick," says Kirkland.
The flu vaccine Kirkland explains could save you from a deadly run-in with a flu case that becomes severe.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the most recent national flu report covering the second week of January 2018, listed the proportion of deaths attributed to pneumonia and influenza as above the system-specific epidemic threshold.
Ten influenza-associated pediatric deaths were also reported. Kirkland says at least 12 people in Georgia have died from the flu this season.
Health officials also say another member of your family should not be forgotten when getting their flu shot. Veterinarians say your canines should also get the proper flu vaccine.
"The vaccine, however, does not prevent the flu, it's sort of like the vaccine for people. It doesn't prevent it but it lessens the severity of the disease," says Columbus veterinarian Lena Harris.
Harris says the human strain of the flu is not the same and the flu cannot be passed from human to dog, but symptoms can be similar. Fever, runny nose, and loss of appetite are all noticeable symptoms both in humans and dogs.
"If you're sick, stay home. If there are sick people at your workplace stay away from them as much as you can," says Kirkland.