Flu season peak looms over Middle Tenn. - WKRN News 2

Flu season peak looms over Middle Tenn.

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. -

Local health officials are preparing for the worst as the peak of flu season nears.

The latest flu activity report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows Tennessee widespread flu activity, reflecting hundreds of cases of flu-like illnesses.

Most of those cases are out of the eastern part of the state, but the numbers are expected to spike in Middle Tennessee soon.

"The flu is spreading in an epidemic-like way," said Dr. Corey Slovis, Chairman of the Department of Emergency at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. "We need to be careful, and we need to be prepared."

The local hospital is seeing a couple of cases each day, and the staff is taking extra precautions.

"If [patients] are coughing, we put a mask on them. When we go into see them, we wear a mask also," Dr. Slovis said. "We're trying to minimize the droplets being spread, but it's sometimes quite difficult."

Hospital staffing within the Saint Thomas Health system are seeing an uptick in the number of flu patients. Management is also being cautious, currently restricting hospital access of visitors who are sick to keep the flu out.

The relatively low number of cases at local hospitals may be offset by the number of patients using convenient care facilities.

"We're one of those easy access points, so we do see a lot of those things firsthand, and we have seen a lot of the increased activity," said Melissa Bogle, nurse practitioner and state manager for CVS Minute Clinic.

Many patients lining up at CVS Minute Clinics have flu-like symptoms. Others are eager to get a last-minute vaccination.

"The number one thing you want to do is get preventive care, so try to get your flu shot," urged Bogle. "If you haven't gotten your flu shot, there's still time to do that."

Dr. Slovis agreed, and advised against believing the myth that the vaccination can make you sick.

"The flu shot doesn't give you the flu. The flu gives you the flu," he said. "Get a flu shot. Get a flu shot. Get a flu shot. It's not too late."

The push for flu vaccinations is the result of an aggressive strain gripping most of the country. More than 40 states have widespread flu activity. Several hospitals have been forced to divert patients away due to overcrowded emergency rooms, and 18 flu-related deaths have been reported this flu season. None have been reported in Tennessee.

Influenza, commonly referred to as the flu, is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. A respiratory illness infects the nose, throat, and lungs. Coughing, sneezing, and even talking sends the influenza virus into the air, allowing it to spread to others.

The flu can cause serious illness or life-threatening conditions. Groups at greater risk for flu complications include the young, elderly, and those with certain health conditions.

Health officials agree the best way to prevent the flu is by getting vaccinated each year.

Other ways to prevent the flu include covering your mouth or nose when coughing or sneezing, washing hands frequently and avoiding contact with people who are sick.

Flu season varies from year to year, but typically stretches from fall to winter. The peak of flu season is between January and February.

Flu outbreaks are monitored by the CDC between October and May.

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