The East Tennessee community has been growing concerned about the flu and how to prevent it from spreading as flu season comes closer to peak season.
According to a release from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the flu remains widespread in 49 states. That includes Tennessee. Just last week, UT Medical Center said the number of cases it has seen is on the rise. A spokesperson at the hospital said there were three individuals who died from the flu last week. Those people were already suffering from a chronic disease or condition at the time they contracted the flu and died.
The CDC said the largest reports of flu deaths usually come from children, but the largest flu impact this year has been for people in their fifties and early sixties
On Monday, 10News reporter Daniel Sechtin visited the Knox County Health Department to speak with Dr. Martha Buchanan.
Question: How do some people die from the flu?
Dr. Buchanan's answer: "Any death is a tragedy of course, but people die from the flu every year. They usually die from second complications. So, they get pneumonia, or they get a bacterial infection in their system, and that's what takes their lives. Folks who are very young, very old or have chronic illnesses are likely to have those problems."
Question: Next question is from Mary, she says her chest is hurting. She's coughing. Is that a sign of the flu coming?
Dr. Buchanan's answer: "I think if you're worried you might have the flu, you really need to pick up the phone and call your doctor. If you're feeling really sick, you need to really go ahead and go to the emergency room. Again, most folks who have the flu, don't need to go to the emergency room, but if you're not sure, pick up the phone from a medical expert who can give you some advice."
Question: So you really always want to get tested rather than guess if you have symptoms of the flu?
Dr. Buchanan's answer: "You really don't want to guess about the flu. Obviously depending on your other medical conditions. So it's best to visit your doctor and make sure of what you have."
Question: Penelope wants to know, if she does take TamiFlu, will that lower her immune system?
Dr. Buchanan's answer: "Absolutely not. Tamiflu is an anti-viral, so it attacks the virus. So it works alongside your immune system to help get rid of the virus."
Question: How about the flu shot itself?
Dr. Buchanan's answer: "The flu shot itself, what it does is it activates your immune system so you give the dead virus to a person in the shot. The immune system learns what that is and recognizes it. So when you get exposed to the flu, you have memory in your immune system, it recognizes that and can fight the flu."