• Happy Thanksgiving from the North Georgia Health District! Our district offices in Dalton will be closed Thanksgiving Day and Friday, November 23 and 24. All our Public Health Departments and services in Cherokee, Fannin, Gilmer, Murray, Pickens and Whitfield Counties will also be closed both days. Best wishes from us to you for a healthy and safe holiday!

Press Room

For more information concerning an item in the press room you may contact:
Jennifer King
Public Information Officer
Phone: 706-529-5757 ext. 3191

Prevent Pertussis (Whooping Cough)

health officials advise vaccination for children and adults

pertussis babyNorth GACases of pertussis, also known as whooping cough, are on the rise and state and local public health officials are working together to identify and notify students and residents that have possibly been exposed.

The best protection against whooping cough is the pertussis vaccine. Babies, teens, adults, and pregnant women need to be vaccinated according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) recommended schedule. If you aren’t vaccinated, you aren’t protected.

For babies, protection against whooping cough can start before they are even born. During pregnancy, women should get the Tdap vaccine, a shot combining protection against whooping cough, tetanus, and diphtheria.  Also, other people, including grandparents, siblings and babysitters, should get their pertussis vaccine at least two weeks before coming into contact with a baby.

Babies begin their series of vaccines against whooping cough at 2 months of age with their first dose of DTaP. Like Tdap, this shot combines protection against whooping cough, tetanus, and diphtheria. The series is completed by getting additional doses at 4 months, 6 months, 15 through 18 months, and 4 through 6 years of age. Since the protection the DTaP vaccine provides young children decreases over time, preteens need the Tdap booster shot at 11 or 12 years old. The CDC recommends one dose of Tdap for adults who did not get Tdap as a preteen or teen.

If you or your child has been around someone with whooping cough, you may become sick with it, as well. This is especially true when you or your child has not received all recommended pertussis vaccinations. Sometimes, even if your shots are up to date, you may still get whooping cough, but the symptoms are usually milder with a shorter illness and it is less likely to spread.

Pertussis is also called whooping cough because of the “whooping” sound that comes from gasping for air after a fit of coughing, making it difficult to breathe. Coughing fits due to pertussis infection can last for up to ten weeks or more. But even worse, pertussis can cause serious and potentially life-threatening complications in infants and young children who are unvaccinated or under vaccinated. Children younger than 1 who contract pertussis are more prone to hospitalization, acquiring pneumonia, convulsions, apnea, and encephalopathy, and 1 percent will die.

Pertussis is a highly contagious disease that is spread through the air by cough. Pertussis begins with cold symptoms and cough, which becomes much worse over 1 to 2 weeks.  Symptoms usually include a long series of coughs (“coughing fits”) followed by a whooping noise. However, older children, adults and very young infants may not develop the whoop. There is generally only a slight fever. People with pertussis may have a series of coughs followed by vomiting, turning blue, or difficulty catching breath. The cough is often worse at night and cough medicines usually do not help alleviate the cough.

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Local Hepatitis C Prevalence Project underway



HepCTesting-md.jpgNORTH GEORGIA – Free Hepatitis C Testing is provided at county health departments in North Georgia!

As part of a statewide Hepatitis C prevalence initiative in Georgia, the North Georgia Health District is conducting the Hepatitis C Prevalence Project (HCPP), which is providing data on occurrences of Hepatitis C in the health district via free testing to those who are at higher risk of being infected with the virus. This is a two-step process that identifies and supports individuals who are living with the Hepatitis C virus (HCV).

Hepatitis C is a contagious and sometimes persistent infection that can lead to lifelong liver disease. The Hepatitis C virus is mainly transmitted via contact with blood of an infected person. Most people are unaware they are infected because they don’t look or feel sick.

But the virus can be detected through blood tests.

Therefore, the first step in the district’s HCPP process is to identify HCV infected residents through free rapid Hepatitis C virus testing at health departments in Cherokee, Fannin, Gilmer, Murray, Pickens and Whitfield Counties. These tests can produce a preliminary result in 20 minutes by using a finger stick test.

Anyone who falls within one or more of the following categories is at higher risk for HCV and is urged to take advantage of this free rapid Hepatitis C testing:

  • Born between 1945 and 1965
  • Past or present injection drug use
  • Sharing of any drug equipment
  • HIV positive
  • Blood transfusions prior to 1992
  • Clotting factors prior to 1987
  • Sexual partner of someone who is Hepatitis C positive
  • Tattoo or body piercing in an unprofessional setting

For clients who test positive in the first step, the second step is to confirm the results by drawing a blood sample that will be sent to the Georgia Public Health Laboratory for further testing.

Once a positive test result has been confirmed, each health department assists clients in linking to services in their area. Those that qualify can enroll in the Mono Infected Hepatitis C Treatment program at the Whitfield County Health Department.

All clients are also counseled on the importance of healthy habits (avoiding alcohol and drugs, including many over-the-counter drugs), ways to reduce spread of the virus, getting contacts tested, and getting assistance to reduce the risky behaviors that exposed them to Hepatitis C in the first place. And, though there currently is no vaccine for Hepatitis C, clients are counseled on getting vaccinated against Hepatitis A and B. 

Testing is offered Mondays through Thursdays at all county health departments in the North Georgia Health District. Test days will be affected by health department closings for events such as holidays and hazardous weather.

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Meet Cheri Holden, Pickens County Nurse Manager

1_-_for_web.jpgNursing may seem simple to some – monitor a patient’s vital signs, check another’s symptoms and glide through the duties of the day. But, in fact, nursing is hard, skillful work that requires a deep sense of dedication.

For Cheri Holden, who has served as nurse manager of the Pickens County Health Department since last fall, the wealth of education, experience and energy she possesses is only surpassed by her dedicated desire to serve others.
Originally from Dalton, Holden had earned both a Registered Nursing degree and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from Southern Adventist University in Collegedale, Tennessee by 1984.
She then managed the infant unit at Northside Hospital in Atlanta; and, in 1986, she began her public health career at the Cobb County Health Department in Marietta.
“I was married by that time and ready to start a family,” said Holden, “So, it was my mother who had urged me to look for a job in public health. She felt I’d be able to focus more time on motherhood.”
Then, her children came – first a son, and a daughter, and later, a stepson and stepdaughter – and Holden raised them while progressing professionally, starting with the launch of the Breast and Cervical Cancer Prevention (BCCP) program in Cobb County to becoming supervisor of the health department’s Acworth Health Center and the Breast Test and More coordinator.
“I loved my work in Cobb County,” she said, “But it grew too large and impersonal – too metropolitan – I wanted to get back to a smaller population with more of a hometown feel.”

“Sickly” raccoon in Ellijay tests positive for rabies

Sickly looking raccoonEllijay (GA) A raccoon that was recently found in a residential area of Ellijay in Gilmer County, Georgia has now tested positive for rabies.


The raccoon was out during the daytime on May 9 and appeared to be sickly as it wandered in the campground area of Coosawattee River Resort, a gated community in Ellijay. A resident, concerned about the danger the raccoon might have posed to people and pets in the neighborhood, shot the animal so it could be tested for rabies.

The raccoon was tested by the Georgia Department of Public Health Laboratory on May 10 and the positive results were reported on May 11.

There was no known human or domestic animal exposure to the raccoon.

Health officials are continuing to remind the public to avoid all wild animals and pet owners should maintain rabies vaccinations in their pets. If a pet receives an initial one-year vaccine, it can receive a three-year rabies vaccination on the following year.


Rabies is prevalent in wild animals such as raccoons and skunks but can be found in coyotes, foxes, bats, bobcats and other wild carnivores. Rodents and opossums are rarely found with rabies, but a bite from any wild mammal should cause concern and be reported to a healthcare provider and the local environmental health office.


Children should be warned to avoid contact with wild mammals and any stray dog or cat and to report any contact with these animals to an adult right away.

For more information about rabies and its prevention, log onto the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website at https://www.cdc.gov/rabies/.

Great American Smokeout? Call the Georgia Tobacco Quit Line!

You can quit smoking today. We can help.
It is never too late to quit using tobacco.

What is the Georgia Tobacco Quit Line?

The Georgia Tobacco Quit Line is a public health service funded by the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) through the Georgia Tobacco Use Prevention Program (GTUPP). GTUPP partners with a national tobacco cessation vendor to provide telephone and web-based counseling services in accordance with the United States Public Health Service Treating Tobacco Use and Dependence Clinical Practice Guidelines. 

What are the benefits of calling the tobacco quit line?

  • Receive FREE helpful quitting tips/techniques and support.
  • Eliminate barriers of traditional cessation classes such as waiting for a class to be held or having to drive to a location in order to be in a class.
  • Provide easy access for people who live in rural or remote areas. They can simply pick up the phone and call instead of having to drive long distances to attend a class.
  • Empower callers who may feel uncomfortable with seeking help in a group setting.

Evidenced-based Intervention

The Georgia Tobacco Quit Line (GTQL) offers effective, evidence-based interventions to help Georgians quit smoking and using any other smokeless tobacco products (i.e., dip or snuff). For Georgians whose primary language may not be English, there are qualified interpreters available.

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