Tennessee Department of Health surveillance notes a steady increase in influenza activity in Tennessee and warns the 2014-2015 flu season could be severe. TDH urges everyone to protect themselves and their families by getting a flu shot now.
“Early indications suggest this could be a more severe flu season than we have had for some time,” said TDH Commissioner John Dreyzehner, MD, MPH. “Vaccination is likely to reduce the risk of severe illness even if not all strains are matched to the vaccine throughout the season. Because a flu vaccine is still the best protection, get it now if you have not done so.”
While vaccination is a much better preventive measure than waiting to be sick and get treatment, early treatment is essential to preventing more severe illness.
“Influenza can be especially dangerous to the elderly, pregnant women and very young children because their immune systems are different from the normal, healthy adult,” said Tennessee Immunization Program Director Kelly Moore, MD, MPH. “We recommend annual flu vaccination for everyone over the age of six months.”
Health care providers are reminded of the importance of providing antivirals for patients with symptoms compatible with influenza, and people at risk for complications from flu should be aggressively treated.
“Anyone with flu-like symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body ache or fatigue should talk with a health care provider about starting antivirals as soon as possible after symptoms start,” said TDH Chief Medical Officer David Reagan, MD, PhD. “You don’t have to be tested for flu to start taking antiviral medications, which can greatly reduce the severity of flu-like illness.”
After your flu vaccination, it’s still important to practice good health habits to protect yourself from the flu and other winter viruses, and to prevent spreading them to others if you do get sick. Good health habits include 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 to prevent spreading illness to co-workers, friends and others.
Flu vaccines are widely available across Tennessee from a number of sources and take only a few minutes to receive. Contact your health care provider about flu vaccine locations near you, or visit the Vaccine Finder available at <http://flushot.healthmap.org>.