If you and your family have not received your flu vaccine, there is still time to protect yourself from a flu season Tennessee health officials say could be severe.
The Tennessee Department of Health said Friday that the agency is seeing a steady increase in influenza activity across the state.
“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.”
The warning echoes a statement by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) earlier this month. According to a CDC survey, only 40% of people in the U.S. had reported getting a flu vaccine this season as of early November 2014.
“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.”
Learn key facts about the seasonal flu and the benefits of vaccination.
Flu symptoms include:
- Fever or feeling feverish/chills
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle or body aches
- Fatigue (tiredness)
- Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults
Not everyone with the flu will experience all of these symptoms. Most people who get the flu will recover within 4-10 days. However, some people may develop complications such as pneumonia, bronchitis or ear infection. Be on the lookout for indications you, a child or family member may need immediate medical assistance for flu complications.
Antiviral medications are available 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.”
It is essential to stay home if you get the flu to prevent its spread to co-workers, family, friends and the public. For people who cannot afford to take off work due to a flu illness or caring for children with the flu, getting a flu shot is especially important.
Locations offering flu vaccination include doctor’s offices, pharmacies, clinics and the health department. The cost varies for the shot and nasal spray vaccinations, but most insurance plans cover flu vaccinations with no co-pay. People in Sevier County without health insurance or who cannot afford the cost of a flu shot can contact the Sevier County Health Department at (865) 453-1032.