JAN 10 -- The good news is flu season appears to have peaked a little early this year in Tennessee, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The bad news is, influenza – particularly influenza A – is still floating around.
The other good news, however, is that the Hardin County Health Department is offering flu vaccine at no charge, until their supplies run out. Patients may walk in to request a flu vaccine any time during regular clinic hours.
“Getting a flu vaccine is the best way to protect yourself, family members and others from the flu and help keep our community healthy,” said County Health Director Pattie Kiddy. “We urge everyone who has not received a flu shot yet to get one now.”
The flu vaccine is especially important for infants, young children, pregnant women, adults over age 50 and for those with chronic medical conditions. The flu shot remains the best protection available against influenza.
According to the CDC, the highest number of reported positive tests for influenza in Tennessee so far this flu season was in week 51, which ended on Dec. 23, with a large majority of those reported being influenza A. Tennessee typically sees the highest number of seasonal flu cases in January and February each year.
The number of positive cases being reported has fallen since week 51 through now, but are still being reported – so people are advised to remain cautious and vigilant.
Hardin County Schools Lead Nurse Phyllis McDaniel said instances of students positive with flu “for this time of year are about average – our numbers have really been good this week coming back from Christmas break. Right now we’ve had about 2-3 positive with flu per school.”
McDaniel added that there is a high incidence of students with upper respiratory symptoms, including severe cough and sinus drainage, but no fever.
“It may get worse – a lot of times it will get worse in February, so we’ll have to see.”
Hardin County Director of Schools Michael Davis said the school system monitors absenteeism daily, including numbers of students sick.
He added, “Not every district has a nurse in every school, so we’re blessed to have one in each school. They submit reports on illness and absenteeism to (McDaniel) every day by about mid-morning, and we monitor that closely.”
The CDC also advises anyone with “influenza-like illness,” which is characterized as having fever above 100 degrees, plus cough and/or sore throat, in the absence of any other known cause other than influenza, to see a doctor.
Some bacterial infections can mimic the flu, and the treatments for an infection versus the flu are different. Doctors advise antibiotics for bacterial infections, which are not effective against the flu. For influenza, antiviral medications can be helpful, especially if administered within two days of the person first showing symptoms.
After getting the flu vaccine, it’s still important to practice good health habits to protect yourself from the flu and other viruses, and to prevent spreading them to others if you do get sick.
Medical experts note that even if the annual flu vaccine produced is not a particularly good match for the strain circulating, it can reduce the severity of symptoms.
Good health habits include:
• Wash hands frequently with soap and water for about 20 seconds.
• Always cover your cough or sneeze with your sleeve or a tissue.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
• Stay home from work, school or other gatherings when sick to help prevent the spread of flu or other illnesses.
The CDC recommends:
• If you get the flu, antiviral drugs are a treatment option.
• It is very important that antiviral drugs are used early to treat hospitalized patients, people with severe flu illness, and people who are at high risk for flu complications because of their age, severity of illness, or underlying medical conditions.
• If you have severe illness or are at high risk of serious flu complications, you may be treated with flu antiviral drugs if you get the flu.
• If you have a high-risk condition, treatment with an antiviral drug can mean the difference between having milder illness instead of very serious illness that could result in a hospital stay.
• Other people also may be treated with antiviral drugs by their doctor this season. Most otherwise-healthy people who get the flu, however, do not need to be treated with antiviral drugs.
• Studies show that flu antiviral drugs work best for treatment when they are started within two days of getting sick. However, starting antivirals later can still be helpful for some people.
• If your health care provider thinks you have the flu, your health care provider may prescribe antiviral drugs. A test for flu is not necessary.
• Antibiotics are not effective against the flu. Using antibiotics inappropriately can lead to antibiotic resistance and may expose patients to unwanted side effects of the drug.
For more information abou tthe flu and free flu vaccines, call the Hardin County Health Department at 731-925-2557.
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