KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of influenza-related deaths in the 2019-2020 season is on the rise.
At the end of Week 51 (ending Dec. 21), the CDC reported 2,100 deaths across the country.
Of those deaths, 22 were children.
Influenza-related deaths on the rise
Erin Treece, the clinical nurse program manager with the Knox County Health Department, said that one child in Tennessee died because of the flu, but it wasn’t in Knox County.
“The problem with the flu is that people can actually pass it along before they even realize they’re sick. It’s most contagious within three to four days of getting ill, but some people don’t even know they have it yet. So, they’re out in the public after having been exposed to someone else and then they expose other people,” Treece said.
She said it’s very important that whoever can get the flu vaccine needs to get it.
Get a flu shot
Not only does the vaccine reduce the chance of that person contracting the virus, but it also reduces the chance of having potentially serious complications from the virus.
Treece said that the vaccine also reduces the chance of spreading the virus to others who can’t get the shot.
“Your typically healthy adults can get over it within a week, usually. But those who are younger, especially those under 6 months of age who can’t receive the vaccine yet, are much more likely to have a severe illness and potentially lead to death,” Treece said.
She said that younger children, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems have a greater risk of the flu leading to serious complications, such as pneumonia or sepsis.
Young children, the elderly, among those at greatest risk
One mother told WATE 6 On Your Side that she and her family will always get the flu vaccine for a few reasons.
Anne Gibson said she’s had the flu in the past; once with the vaccine and once without.
She said her experience without the vaccine was a lot worse than with the shot.
“I got the flu and I would not wish it on my worst enemies,” Gibson said.
She said the other reason why she and her family get the vaccine is to protect her youngest child, who was born with a heart defect and can’t get the shot himself.
Treece said that the main sign someone knows their flu might turn for the worse is that they simply don’t get better or start feeling worse after a few days.
Typical symptoms of flu
Typical symptoms of the flu include coughing, achiness, fatigue, fever and sometimes nausea.
Treece said though, that not all patients will show every single symptom.
She said no one should self-diagnose, but if someone takes over the counter medicine and they aren’t getting better, it’s definitely time to call the doctor.
Treece also said that if someone tested positive for the flu and got prescription medication, they should still get the flu vaccine.
Free flu vaccinations available
With new year celebrations around the corner, Treece said people should stay home if they aren’t feeling well.
If someone is already out and about when they start to feel under the weather, then they should stay a good distance away from people, wash their hands often — especially after touching something — and cough or sneeze into your elbow.
The Knox County Health Department continues to offer flu vaccinations.
You can call the department at 865-215-5300 with any questions.
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