MOULTRIE -- A Moultrie woman studying at the University of Georgia is the state's first confirmed case of the flu this year.

Beth Jeter, a senior at UGA, began suffering with aches and fever Dec. 13, said her father, Dan Jeter of Moultrie. The next day she visited the clinic at the university, which sent its lab sample to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Jeter said his daughter's illness was pretty severe and caused a painful reaction in her eyes. The illness was caught early, though, he said, and doctors treated it with an antiviral medication that shortened her recovery time. She's much better now, he said.

He said the clinic called Beth Jeter to check on her progress and told her, "Oh, by the way, you're Georgia's first confirmed case of the flu."

The case -- minus identifying information -- was reported Tuesday on the Georgia Division of Public Health's Web site for medical providers, said Dr. Jim Wilde of the Medical College of Georgia.

But it's likely Georgia's flu season -- and possibly the country's -- will be mild, although health officials including Wilde say they cannot truly predict how the flu season will turn out. The U.S. flu season starts as early as October and can last through April.

"The season has not been severe at all -- this time last year we were going nuts," said Wilde, associate professor of emergency medicine at the medical college.

State health officials with the Department of Human Resources said Tuesday afternoon they were not yet ready to publicly release the information provided to doctors.

But Georgia Division of Public Health officials did announce Tuesday that on Jan. 3 they will broaden the state's recommendations of who should get the flu shot to include adults age 50 and older, said Richard Quartarone, spokesman for the state human resources department.

The health department's announcement matched a recommendation made by a federal immunization panel on Friday, which increased the number of people who should receive a flu shot.

The government in October recommended that healthy adults delay or skip a flu shot this season to save vaccine for the estimated 98 million people in the country who need it most -- the elderly, infants or those with chronic conditions.

Those people are at highest risk of severe complications or death from the flu, which kills on average 36,000 people and hospitalizes 200,000 each year in the country.

The October recommendation was made after health officials learned that nearly half of the country's flu shot supply would be cut off because of contamination at vaccine maker Chiron Corp.'s plant in Liverpool, England.

But flu shot demand turned out to be lower than expected because the flu season has been mild so far. Also, it turns out that more than half of all elderly or chronically ill adults have not even tried to get vaccinated because they figured no shots would be available, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said last week.

Nationally, New York is the only state with major flu activity, followed by regional flu activity in Kentucky and Florida. Cases also have been found in parts of Colorado, Minnesota, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina, according to the CDC.

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On the Net:

Georgia Division of Public Health: http://health.state.ga.us/

CDC flu info: http://www.cdc.gov/flu

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