East TN pediatricians say babies most vulnerable during flu season


KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Sadly the number of flu deaths in Tennessee continues to rise, the state reporting its 10th pediatric flu death on Wednesday.

MORE: 10th pediatric flu death reported in Tennessee

The Tennessee Department of Health saying that number includes six pediatric flu deaths in East Tennessee, three in Middle Tennessee and one in West Tennessee.

Pediatricians say babies are the most vulnerable to the flu virus and currently, we’re at the peak of flu season.

East Tennessee Children’s Hospital reported 76 Influenza A cases and 90 Influenza B cases from January 27 to February 2.

RELATED: Flu myths debunked by Children’s Hospital doctor

Oliver is 5 months old and his mom, Ali Kolar, is keeping a close eye on him lately, “He could get a fever really easily and we have to monitor that. His cough right now isn’t bad but it could get deeper and go into his chest.”

Kolar says this is a worrisome time as sickness sweeps through East Tennessee.

“It’s very sad. He’s so tiny, we can’t do much. We try and suction out his nose but he doesn’t like it and it just breaks our hearts,” she added.

At East Tennessee Children’s Hospital, pediatricians say the hospital is seeing a lot of children come in with the flu and babies are the most vulnerable to the virus.

“Because their immune systems are so immature. They can actually take a turn very quickly. With little babies it can be an hour by hour ordeal,” said Dr. Stephanie Gorman with ETCH.

RELATED: CDC: Flu is on the rise

Generally, there are cough, cold and fever symptoms but Dr. Gorman says parents need to pay attention, “Little babies often don’t show us those signs. Sometimes they’re more of not wanting to eat or drink, having a fever and not making enough wet diapers. It’s important they’re making at least four wet diapers in a 24-hour day.”

Pediatricians say at home, we can protect babies by disinfecting everything they may touch, washing our hands and making sure children 6 months and older can get a flu shot.

“It is not a live vaccine so when your child gets it, they cannot get the flu from the flu shot. When the vaccine goes into their body, their immune system identifies it and basically remembers what it looks like, so the next time they come into contact with anything that looks like the flu, they’ll be immune to it,” said Dr. Gorman.

For the Kolar family, they’re doing all they can to keep germs far away.

“We want to stop being sick and when he’s healthy, that’s when he’s happy,” said Kolar.

Pediatricians say if your little one is having trouble breathing or showing signs of dehydration, that’s when you bring them to the emergency room.

The Tennessee Department of Health emphasized that free flu vaccine is still available at local health departments (while supplies last). The health department also advises to stay at home when ill, cover your cough/sneeze and wash your hands.


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