2 East Tennessee child flu deaths reported; 3 statewide

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN/WATE) – The state’s Department of Health said three children have died of the flu across the state so far this 2017-2018 flu season.

Two of the deaths were in the eastern part of the state and the other in Middle Tennessee.

Several East Tennessee hospitals have said they've seen an increase in flu cases.

The health department said they can’t release further details in order to protect the privacy of patients and their families.

Officials added they typically see two to three flu-related deaths each flu season and have seen as many as 15 during the 2009 pandemic.

In order to prevent the spread of the flu, the health department says to wash your hands thoroughly or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer, cover your nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing, avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth, and stay home if you’re sick.

Early December, doctors warned the deadly H3N2 strain came early, saying children and people age 65 or older are especially susceptible.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, influenza activity has increased significantly across the nation in recent weeks. In the past, H3N2 virus-predominant seasons have been associated with more hospitalizations and deaths in people aged 65 years and older and young children compared to other age groups. In addition, influenza vaccine effectiveness in general has been lower against H3N2 viruses than against the H1N1 strain.

But nevertheless, doctors still say to get the flu vaccine if you haven’t already–and it’s not only for your own health, but also for the safety of others.

“Nobody wants to be the dreaded spreader, so we should all get vaccinated to protect ourselves and to make our surroundings as flu free as possible,”
says infectious disease specialist Dr. William Schaffner with Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

“It works more effectively in younger people than in older people, but none the less, even if it’s only partially effective, it’s important because even if you get the flu despite getting the vaccine your illness is much more likely to be milder, you are less likely to get the complications,”
the doctor added.