TDH Reminds Everyone to Get a Flu Shot

Monday, February 13, 2017 | 2:22pm

NASHVILLE – Flu season is here with seasonal flu activity reported across Tennessee. The highest number of influenza cases in Tennessee is typically seen in January and February each year. Tennessee is currently among the states with the highest levels of flu activity according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  

‘’The best thing we can do for our health and the health of our communities is to prevent illness,’’ said TDH Commissioner John Dreyzehner. “Every year influenza causes millions of illnesses and many hospitalizations and even deaths in Tennessee and across the U.S. We know getting a flu shot will help save lives and reduce the number of flu-related illnesses and deaths, so we urge everyone who hasn’t been vaccinated this flu season to do the right thing and get a flu shot now.’’

Everyone can benefit from getting a flu vaccine, but it is especially important for people at high risk for serious illness or death from influenza including babies and young children, the elderly and pregnant women as well as healthcare workers and family and friends of anyone at high risk. Expectant mothers should be vaccinated during pregnancy to protect themselves and pass protection on to their unborn babies.

The number of people hospitalized as a result of the flu varies from year to year. During the 2015-2016 flu season, the CDC estimated 310,000 Americans were hospitalized for flu-related illness. The number of seasonal flu-related deaths varies from year to year because flu seasons often fluctuate in length and severity. While seasonal flu-related deaths of people older than 18 years of age are not reportable, those among children are reported.

Young children are among those most at risk for serious illness and death from influenza, as evidenced by reports confirmed by TDH of the first two influenza-related deaths of children reported in Tennessee this year. The Department of Health is extremely saddened by news of the deaths of two young children as a result of complications from the flu, and our hearts go out to their families. Tennessee typically sees four to five deaths among children from flu-related complications each year.

This year’s flu vaccine is well-matched to the strains of flu that are circulating. Recent studies show flu vaccine reduces the risk of flu illness by about 50 to 60 percent among the overall population during seasons when most circulating flu viruses are like the vaccine viruses. Flu vaccination may make your illness milder if you do get sick, and can reduce the risk of flu-associated hospitalization including among children and older adults.

Flu vaccine is currently being offered at no charge to patients at county health departments across the state. To find a county health department near you, visit http://tn.gov/health/topic/localdepartments. Flu vaccine is also widely available across Tennessee from a number of providers including pharmacies, grocery store clinics and primary care providers.

“If you do get the flu, taking antiviral medication as prescribed by a doctor can lessen symptoms and shorten the time you are sick,” said Tennessee Immunization Program Director Kelly Moore, MD. “Antivirals are especially important for those at increased risk of complications from influenza, including pregnant women and anyone hospitalized with suspected influenza complications. Contact your health care provider right away if you are at high risk of serious flu complications and you get flu symptoms.”

Another way to help prevent the spread of flu and other winter viruses is to practice good health habits including frequent hand washing with soapy water or use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers, and covering coughs and sneezes with a sleeve or tissue. People who are sick should stay home to recover and to prevent spreading illness to co-workers, friends and others. For more information about preventing and treating influenza, visit www.cdc.gov/flu/consumer/index.html.

The mission of the Tennessee Department of Health is to protect, promote and improve the health and prosperity of people in Tennessee. TDH has facilities in all 95 counties and provides direct services for more than one in five Tennesseans annually as well as indirect services for everyone in the state, including emergency response to health threats, licensure of health professionals, regulation of health care facilities and inspection of food service establishments. Learn more about TDH services and programs at www.tn.gov/health

Health