Flu kills. Seasonal influenza is responsible for thousands of premature deaths in Tennessee and across the U.S. every year. So far in this decade:
• More than 1,500 American children have died from seasonal influenza
• 51 children in Tennessee have died from seasonal influenza
• 185 American children died from seasonal flu just last year
• About 80 percent of the children who died from seasonal flu had not been fully vaccinated
• Half of the children who died from seasonal flu had no known pre-existing risk condition
• Two out of three children who died from seasonal flu lost their lives within seven days of getting sick
• Six out of 10 children who died from seasonal flu lost their lives after being admitted to the hospital
“The numbers are sobering. Every death, especially children, we see each flu season makes me very sad, and our hearts go out to all the families who have lost loved ones due to influenza,” said TDH Commissioner John Dreyzehner, MD, MPH. “Yet it’s in our power to stop flu and prevent most of the terrible deaths we see every year. Getting a flu shot is simple and the most important thing you can do to help prevent the flu in yourself, and perhaps more importantly, in others whose bodies can’t protect themselves as well.”
Flu season is here, with indications Tennessee and the U.S. could face another season with high numbers of illnesses and deaths from influenza. The 2017 – 2018 flu season was one of the worst in decades in this country according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with a record-breaking number of hospitalizations and a high number of deaths. Those deaths include 11 children and one pregnant woman in Tennessee who died from seasonal influenza. Flu vaccination reduces the risk of death from flu in otherwise healthy children by two-thirds. The Tennessee Department of Health and the CDC urge annual flu vaccination for everyone over six months of age.
Flu vaccine is available now in numerous locations across Tennessee including county health departments, private medical clinics and pharmacies. Find a map of local health department locations and contact information online at www.tn.gov/health/health-progr
“The flu is not just a bad cold. Flu can make you horribly ill, send you to the hospital and even take your life,” said TDH Assistant Commissioner for Communicable and Environmental Diseases and Emergency Preparedness Tim Jones, MD. “Getting a flu vaccine is the best protection we have against getting the flu and passing it to others. Please set the example and get vaccinated and encourage everyone you know to do the same. Your example will save lives.”
The Tennessee Department of Health is partnering again this year with the Tennessee Department of Education and school systems around the state to provide flu vaccine through school-located influenza vaccination clinics. More than 25,000 flu shots were provided to children in more than 600 Tennessee schools during the 2017-2018 flu season through this effort.
It’s extremely important for pregnant women to be vaccinated to protect themselves and their unborn children. Flu is more likely to cause severe illness in pregnant women than in women of reproductive age who are not pregnant, and may harm a developing baby. A recent CDC study found flu vaccination protected pregnant women against flu-associated hospitalization.
“Seasonal flu poses a heightened risk for pregnant women who undergo changes to their immune system, heart and lungs that make them more prone to severe illness from flu,” said TDH Assistant Commissioner for Family Health and Wellness Morgan McDonald, MD. “A flu vaccine given during pregnancy helps protect the mother and protects the baby from flu infection for several months after birth, before he or she is old enough to be vaccinated.”
Follow these additional tips to protect your family and others from the flu:
• Stay home if you are sick
• Use “respiratory etiquette” by coughing into your elbow or a tissue instead of your hands
• Wash hands frequently with soap and water or with an alcohol-based hand rub
• Routine cleaning and disinfection in the home and workplace are important to reduce flu risks
Most people with the flu do not need medical care or antiviral drugs. However, groups including infants, the elderly and people with certain medical conditions are at highest risk of getting severe complications from the flu. Anyone who believes he or she may have the flu should contact a health care provider and begin antiviral medications if recommended by the provider as soon as possible.
Learn more about preventing seasonal flu at www.cdc.gov/flu/consumer/preve
The mission of the Tennessee Department of Health is to protect, promote and improve the health and prosperity of people in Tennessee. TDH has facilities in all 95 counties and provides direct services for more than one in five Tennesseans annually as well as indirect services for everyone in the state, including emergency response to health threats, licensure of health professionals, regulation of health care facilities and inspection of food service establishments. Learn more about TDH services and programs at www.tn.gov/health.