Feeling under the weather recently? You're not alone: Cases of the flu are on the rise across most of the East Tennessee region.
Health officials in East Tennessee, Kentucky and Western Virginia are all reporting more cases of the flu, saying flu activity is starting to reach its highest levels in some places. The traditional flu season lasts from October through May, but in some places nationally the activity began a little earlier than usual this year.
Katherine Killen with the Knox County Health Department said Knox County is seeing a steady increase in flu activity, which is typical for this time of year. Killen said people should expect the peak of flu season to arrive next month or February as the activity hasn't reached "widespread" in the state.
In the Tri-Cities region, activity is reportedly more widespread than others parts of the state. Some hospitals are implementing visitation restrictions to keep the flu from spreading to patients.
Mountain States and Wellmont Hospitals in the Tri-Cities are asking anyone with flu-like symptoms and children younger than 12 fto refrain from visiting the hospital unless they are need of treatment.
Both hospitals said they recorded 54 cased of the flu on Dec. 3, which more than doubled to 140 the following week.
“We've seen a sharp increase in flu cases over the last several days, and we expect the numbers to continue to grow,” said Jamie Swift, director of infection prevention at Mountain States. “We're implementing these restrictions at our hospitals to protect our patients and our community as a whole. We are entering the peak of flu season much earlier this year, so if you haven't gotten a flu shot yet, please get one. Now is the time.”
The flu is spreading quickly in Kentucky at the moment. The state's Department of Health is reporting "widespread" cases of flu, which is the highest activity level.
Kentucky health officials said they've also seen flu activity emerging earlier than normal and anticipates it will continue for several months.
Health officials are recommending everyone 6 months and older, especially pregnant women, the elderly and anyone with a weakened immune system, to get a flu vaccination.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends these tips to stop the spread of germs:
- Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
- While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.
- If you are sick with flu-like illness, CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone for 24 hours without the use of a fever-reducing medicine).
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu.
You can find the CDC's weekly flu activity map at this link.