NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Flu cases are on the rise in Middle Tennessee, and doctors are warning people to take precautions.
The Centers for Disease Control reports Tennessee is one of 13 states with regional flu activity. In Kentucky, there have been eight flu related deaths so far this year. No deaths have been reported in Tennessee due to the flu.
Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s Virology and Immunopathology Clinical Laboratories found 211 patients tested positive for strain A of the flu virus and 17 tested positive for strain B between July and December of 2017. Officials at St. Thomas Midtown Hospital said doctors are seeing about one confirmed flu case per day.
The spike in flu cases is keeping doctors and nurses at the Vanderbilt Health Walk-In Clinic in Belle Meade busy. The waiting room is staying full with people coughing, sneezing and running fevers.
“It’s definitely a lot more than we saw last year,” said Kate Nulsen, Manager of Patient Care Services for Vanderbilt. “Lots of patients have flu like symptoms.”
Nulsen said the flu season is starting earlier than normal this year. Flu season typically peaks in January or February.
To prevent the spread of germs, patients and employees are wearing surgical masks and using hand sanitizer frequently.
Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center said the H3N2 strain of the flu was most common at the beginning of flu season, but in the last week, the H1N1 strain has also surfaced. Dr. Schaffner said it is normal to see multiple strains each flu season. The H3N2 typically impacts older people, and the flu vaccine is more effective in treating the H1N1 strain.
“If you are older than six months, get vaccinated,” said Dr. Schaffner. “If you still get the flu, it’s not as severe.”
Dr. Schaffner said it’s also important to wash your hand frequently, stay away from people who are sick, and to stay home if you aren’t feeling well to prevent spreading germs.
“Influenza should always be taken seriously,” said Dr. Schaffner. “Each year people who are healthy are impacted, and they are in the emergency room within 24 hours.”