Flu activity in Tennessee is picking up faster than a sneeze, particularly among young and middle-age adults.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found the predominant strain this year is H1N1, the same strain responsible for the 2009 pandemic.
According to family nurse practitioner Theresa Hill of Family Care Clinic at Northgate Center, the time to think about being vaccinated is now.
“About 20 percent of the people I have seen today have had the flu,” Hill said Tuesday. “One lady I saw the other day came back and she’s probably got pneumonia. The No. 1 complication of the flu is pneumonia. What people need to keep in mind is it takes two weeks for the flu shots to kick in. If you get the shot today, you won’t be protected for at least two weeks.”
Nationally, 1,156 flu-associated hospitalizations have been confirmed since Oct. 1, but many hospitalizations can be prevented by vaccination. The CDC estimates about 1,600 hospitalizations were prevented in Tennessee last year by flu vaccinations.
Hill says people have two misconceptions about the vaccine.
“Some people don’t want to get the flu shot because they think it will make them sick. It doesn’t. I have people get angry that they took the vaccine but still got the flu. Having the vaccine is no guarantee that you won’t get the flu. If you get the flu after taking the vaccine, it’s usually a milder case with a shorter duration.”
People who suspect they have the flu are encouraged to seek medical attention immediately. Those who wait more than 48 hours cannot take anti-viral medication.
To keep H1N1 from becoming a pandemic in 2014, Hill encourages people to protect themselves and others by covering their mouth with a napkin when they cough or cough into their elbows, wash hands thoroughly and regularly, and unless you are going to a doctor’s appointment, stay home when you’re sick.
Several versions of the flu vaccine are available. The CDC recommends vaccination for anyone 6 months or older.