NASHVILLE, Tennessee (WKRN) – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has classified Tennessee as “high” for influenza activity, with data collected from the week ending Christmas Day. The statistics come as the region is also experiencing an increase in hospitalizations for influenza.
“Obviously the flu is waking up across the country and right here in Tennessee. In addition, we are seeing a gradual increase in the number of patients hospitalized with influenza. This is the most serious aspect of the flu, the flu and its complications, ”said Dr William Schaffner, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, professor of preventive medicine in the department of health policy and professor of medicine to the infectious diseases division.
Vanderbilt and Middle Tennessee have a CDC-sponsored flu surveillance system where they report to the CDC on what’s going on in the area. According to Dr. Schaffner, there is an increase in hospitalizations for influenza and laboratory-diagnosed influenza. It started mainly on the east coast and is gradually moving west.
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“The flu has definitely hit central Tennessee,” he said. “The main complication of the flu is pneumonia, a different type of pneumonia than you get with COVID, and pneumonia that can often require treatment with antibiotics. It is a complicated bacterial pneumonia in addition to the viral infection, it is the flu. “
The doctor went on to explain that this is the time of year when the flu usually makes its presence known. It begins in December, then gains momentum in January, often peaking in February before starting to gradually recede.
Flu cases and hospitalizations mimic what is seen among COVID-19 cases in Middle Tennessee and across the country.
“The flu and COVID can present very, very similar symptoms to the doctor. They are difficult, if not impossible to distinguish clinically, ”explained Dr Schaffner. “So as we take care of the patients, we will do a lot of testing, testing for COVID for the flu, because we have different types of treatments available for each of these viral infections. “
They encourage people to get the flu shot, adding that you can get one along with the COVID-19 shots.
“I want to stress that it is not too late to get the flu shot,” said Dr Schaffner. “We’ve been so concerned about COVID and the COVID vaccine that we kind of forgot about the flu. And the recommendations are very simple. Everyone, everyone from six months old should be vaccinated against the flu every year. The flu shot is a good vaccine, but not a perfect one. Every year, it prevents thousands of infections. But even if you get the vaccine and still have the flu, your illness will be less severe, you are less likely to need hospitalization, and you are less likely to die from the flu. And the flu can make even a young person normal and put them in the hospital within 48 hours. So it’s a nasty infection.
He added that it is especially important for pregnant women to get the flu shot.
“Pregnant women who contract the flu are much more likely to have complications,” said Dr. Schaffner. “And then there is also a bonus. When a woman is vaccinated, she passes some of this protection on to her baby. So, when the baby is born, in the first six months of life, there is protection against influenza, and the influenza vaccine during pregnancy is safe.
CLICK HERE to find the nearest place to get a flu shot in Tennessee.