COOKEVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The Tennessee Department of Health says the number of pediatric flu deaths has risen to six, two of them in Middle Tennessee. That’s why schools and hospitals, like Cookeville Regional Medical Center, have strict protocols in place to make sure the number of cases doesn’t continue to rise.
Putnam County Schools says officials are monitoring absentee rates throughout the cold and flu season closely. So far, they are not experiencing an unusually high number related to illness.
Cookeville Regional Medical Center has seen a large number of patients since December, especially children either with the flu or sick with complications from the illness. The hospital has protocols in place to prevent it from spreading.
“We require all of our personnel to get vaccinated if they have any contact with patients,” says Dr. Mark Pierce. “We don’t let anyone under the age of 16 come and visit the hospital because it’s very common among children and young people.”
This year, there has been a shift in the predominant strain.
“The manufacturers of the flu vaccine look at the circulating strains at the end of each season and try to match the strains they think are going to circulate in the next year,” Dr. Pierce says.
There are four types of flu that are in the vaccine.
“The A’s are well matched this year, but the B’s are not a good match and I think that’s one reason we’ve seen more flu activity and it’s the one more common among infants up to 24 years of age,” Dr. Pierce says.
The hospital says it is still worth getting the vaccine because it can prevent complications. Staying home if you’re sick and washing your hands consistently is the best thing you can do.
Many city and county health departments are still offering vaccinations free of charge.