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Flu season off to slow start locally

Although the flu bug has hit the state and closed schools in East Tennessee, it has not yet reached epidemic proportions in Warren County.
Warren County Schools director of attendance Jeffrey Martin said absentee rates district-wide have been less than normal.
“We had an absentee rate of 6.5 percent today and last Friday, and 6.4 percent yesterday,” Martin said Tuesday. “Those rates are actually less than what we normally experience. For us to consider closing schools, the absentee rate would have to be in the 15 to 16 percent range. Those numbers would cause an issue. In my opinion, the flu is not here as bad yet as it has been in other counties.”
About an hour away, Cookeville Regional Medical Center is temporarily prohibiting visitors to the hospital under age 16 until further notice. The only exception will be siblings of newborns who will be allowed to visit with their family in the birthing unit.
Health officials across Tennessee are giving away free flu shots after a spike in cases early in flu season.
“We have a supply of flu vaccine available and want to see as many Tennesseans vaccinated as possible to protect the health of those in our state,” said Health Commissioner John Dreyzehner. “Getting vaccinated against the flu is the best way to protect your family, friends, co-workers and yourself from the illness.”
Debbie Hoy, Upper Cumberland Communicable Disease director, said, “The flu vaccine changes every year. The viruses being detected at this time are in the seasonal flu vaccine. This is why we encourage people to get the vaccine. We want to prevent people from being sick. It may not prevent it totally but it will lessen the severity of it.”
“The common cold attacks the upper respiratory system, causes sniffles and last a little while. The flu attacks the whole body and causes fever, body aches and you feel like a Mack truck hit you,” Hoy said.
Hoy said exact figures on the number of people diagnosed with the flu are unavailable. She said those figures are not reportable. The only figures reported are deaths from the flu.
 The CDC cautioned the most common strain of influenza now circulating tends to cause more severe illness, particularly among the elderly.
The Tennessee Department of Health operates health department clinics in 89 of Tennessee’s 95 counties. The flu vaccine will be provided to both adults and children at the health departments at no cost to patients until all doses are administered.
Flu shots will be provided at the local health department at no charge to patients. Both adults and children may receive the flu vaccine at the clinic. Call the health department at 473-8468 to schedule an appointment or for more information. The clinic is located at 1401 Sparta Street and open Monday thru Friday from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.

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