Doctors are telling patients who have not had their flu shot to get one as flu season continues to sicken people across Tennessee.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, Region 4 which includes Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, North Carolina and South Carolina has elevated cases of influenza.
Elevated means the percentage of positive influenza tests is above the national average.
“The influenza vaccine is a good but not perfect vaccine,” Dr. William Schaffner said. “It will prevent many infections for many people.”
Dr. Schaffner is the chairman of Vanderbilt University Medical Center's Department of Preventative Medicine.
He said a number of people may have gotten a flu shot and still fallen ill because they are not actually suffering from influenza, but an infection that has similar symptoms.
“They are coming in with a cough, bronchitis, not feeling well, stuffy nose, sore throat and some aches,” he said. “It sounds like influenza, but there are other respiratory viruses like the common cold that's also going around at the same time.”
He continued, “Truly many of these respiratory infections are the common cold caused by other viruses. The flu vaccine can't prevent those it can prevent real influenza.”
Dr. Schaffner said the flu vaccine changes every year depending on what train doctors believe will be the most prevalent.
“This year we hit it right on target because the circulating viruses are well matched in the vaccine,” he said. “If you haven't gotten vaccinated that is the first thing they should do.”
Flu season is far from over. Dr. Schaffner said the peak for flu is usually February.
“Also wash your hands, stay away from people who are coughing and sneezing, as much as that is possible in this busy season, and get lots of sleep,” he said.
If you do get sick the doctor said you should stay home so you do not infect others.
The flu can be the most dangerous for infants, the elderly or others with compromised immune systems.
Each year the flu kills more than 30,000 people nationwide.
- Dec. 5, 2012: CDC reports high flu activity in Tennessee
- Dec. 5, 2012: Flu vaccines available for uninsured children
- Dec. 4, 2012: Health officials prepare for busy flu season
- Dec. 3, 2012: U.S. flu season starts early, could be bad, CDC says
- Sept. 24, 2012: Metro Health Department opens annual fast track flu clinic
- August 22, 2012: Nashville airport takes steps to keep travelers healthy
- August 15, 2012: Flu vaccines stocked, researchers keep eye on new strain