Seasonal influenza prevention starts now in Tennessee

Published 1:33 pm Thursday, October 19, 2023

The Tennessee Department of Health is offering free flu vaccines at more than 100 county health departments across the state beginning Nov. 1.

Paul Petersen, director of the emergency preparedness program for the Tennessee Department of Health, said seasonal influenza cases are most prevalent in January and February. However, Tennessee and the nation already have seen an uptick in cases.

He emphasized getting the vaccine is crucial for residents who are most at risk for the virus.

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“We really want to make sure and encourage those that are elderly, have chronic conditions, those that are pregnant, and those that are young children to get the flu vaccine, because they just have a higher risk for serious complications of disease,” Petersen explained. “Flu can progress to a place where they have to be hospitalized.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends flu shots for anyone older than six months of age, and parents with questions should check with their child’s doctor. Petersen suggested Tennesseans visit the state Department of Health’s Fight Flu website, enter their street address and choose the location closest to them.

Petersen added your physician can help distinguish between COVID and flu symptoms.

“The challenge is that both flu or influenza and COVID-19 have very similar symptoms,” Petersen acknowledged. “The real step to take is to go see your medical provider. CDC does have some resources that spell out some of the differences in symptoms, but they’re really quite similar.”

Petersen noted that to prevent illnesses of all kinds, it is important to wash your hands regularly, cover coughs and sneezes and be willing to stay home when you’re not feeling well.