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State: Flu season could be severe

The Tennessee Department of Health (TDH) cautions Tennesseans that the 2014-2015 flu season could be severe.
According to a press release issued by the TDH last week, statistics show that a steady increase of influenza activity has occurred in the state.
In order to protect themselves from the flu, the state is urging everyone to get a flu shot as soon as possible.
Flu vaccines are widely available across Tennessee from a number of sources and take only a few minutes to receive, the TDH said.
For more information, contact your health care provider about flu vaccine locations near you, or visit the Vaccine Finder available at http://flushot.healthmap.org/.
“Early indications suggest this could be a more severe flu season than we have had for some time,” said TDH Commissioner John Dreyzehner, MD, MPH. “Vaccination is likely to reduce the risk of severe illness even if not all strains are matched to the vaccine throughout the season.
“Because a flu vaccine is still the best protection, get it now if you have not done so,” Dreyzehner contintued.
For those who do contract the flu, the TDH urges them to get treatment as soon as possible because early treatment is vital for preventing the illness from becoming severe.
“Influenza can be especially dangerous to the elderly, pregnant women and very young children because their immune systems are different from the normal, healthy adult,” said Tennessee Immunization Program Director Kelly Moore, MD, MPH. “We recommend annual flu vaccination for everyone over the age of six months.”
The TDH is also urging health care professions to provide antivirals to patients with flu-like symptoms. Those at risk for complications from the flu should receive aggressive medical treatment, the state also said.
“Anyone with flu-like symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body ache or fatigue should talk with a health care provider about starting antivirals as soon as possible after symptoms start,” said TDH Chief Medical Officer David Reagan, MD, PhD. “You don’t have to be tested for flu to start taking antiviral medications, which can greatly reduce the severity of flu-like illness.”
The state also reminds Tennesseans that even after taking a flu vaccination, they should practice good health habits to prevent illness and spreading illness to others.
Good health habits include frequently washing your hands with soapy water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, covering sneezes or coughs with a tissue.
Those who become sick should also stay at home to recover to prevent spreading illness to family, friends and coworkers, the state said.