Flu season hits Middle Tennessee as diagnoses rise

Dr. William Schaffner (Photo: WKRN)

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Flu season is here, and it’s hitting Middle Tennessee hard. At least four people have died, including three children and a pregnant woman

Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, says emergency rooms, minute clinics, and doctor offices have all been busy seeing people with flu-like symptoms.

Over the past 6 months, more than 200 patients tested positive for strain A influenza at Vanderbilt. During the same time the year before, only 28 people tested positive for that strain.

Dr. Schaffner says if you are sick, call your doctor before going in for medical attention.

“We are now in the middle of flu season, and if you start to get sick quickly, call your doctor because they may provide an anti-viral like Tamiflu, and if you take that early, your illness is less likely to be severe. You are less likely to get the serious complications,” he explained.

Going in to see a doctor could spread the virus, but be aware if you have serious complications.

“Obviously if you are having trouble breathing, if you really are sick, if there’s anything to suggest your illness is serious, if your cough becomes productive, if you start bringing up green sputum, and goodness, if there is blood in it, immediately get medical care,” said Dr. Schaffner.

RELATED: Doctors warn deadly flu strain has arrived in Middle Tennessee

If you get hit hard with the flu, you can develop serious life-threatening complications within a day.

“Influenza can hit, and it can hit you so hard that you really have to seek medical attention within 24, certainly 48, hours if it really hits you hard,” he told News 2.

He adds that it can have later complications of pneumonia, which can happen several days after the flu hits.

Dr. Schaffner says it’s not too late for the vaccination, noting it does take between 10 days and up to 2 weeks for the protection to develop in your body.

The Metro Public Health Department is offering the flu shot for free at all clinic locations. Click here to see a list.