The Tennessee Department of Health (TDH) is seeing increased reports of seasonal influenza and other respiratory illnesses across the state. As flu season continues, we remind Tennesseans about measures to take to slow the spread of flu in our communities.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and TDH recommend a yearly flu vaccine for everyone aged six months and older. It is not too late to benefit from a flu shot this season and to assure you are protecting those around you. TDH reminds the public that people can be sick with the flu and transmit it up to 24 hours before they feel ill.
TDH also strongly encourages taking precautions to prevent infection with the flu, such as avoiding contact with sick people. People who are sick should stay home for at least 24 hours after symptoms have resolved to protect others and prevent spreading the disease. This should include avoiding going to work, school and other public places while ill, and limiting visits to people in nursing homes or hospitals.
TDH also recommends people who are sick or have sick people in their households, such as small children be particularly careful when considering visits to friends or loved ones in hospitals, long-term care facilities and other places where sick and vulnerable people live or receive care. Consider calls or “virtual” visits with technology such as video chats to prevent the spread of germs in these settings, and respect any limits on visitation policies that facilities may be compelled to implement during flu season.
To protect your family and others, always use “respiratory etiquette” such as coughing into your elbow or a tissue rather than your hands, and wash hands frequently with soap and water or with an alcohol-based hand rub. Routine cleaning and disinfection in the home and workplace are also important to reduce flu risks.
Some groups of people such as infants, the elderly and people with certain medical conditions are at highest risk of getting severe complications from the flu. People in these groups should consult a health care provider if they suspect infection with the flu and should begin antiviral medications if recommended by their provider as soon as possible. However, few people with the flu or other respiratory illnesses need to go to an emergency room. TDH recommends that people who are not severely ill call their health care provider first to talk about whether they need to be seen, and if so, where would be most appropriate place to go.