Influenza cases rising in Hamilton County

Flu cases rising faster than in recent years according to Hamilton County Health Department

HAMILTON COUNTY, Tenn. (WDEF) — Dr. Stephen Miller of the Hamilton County Health Department says flu cases are rising much faster than anticipated this year.

Miller says, this year, the flu has been particularly bad in the Southeastern part of the United States and one person has already passed away from it in North Carolina.

The health officer says the department is “very concerned.”

Access Family Pharmacist Phil Smith says flu cases aren’t just rising in the community, they’re rising earlier than usual.

“Everybody kind of knows now — flu is here,” Smith said. “Pharmacies can always tell because you see an increase in Tamiflu prescriptions. Tamiflu is on backorder now, so if you don’t have any on the shelf, it’s hard to come by at this point.”

Rising flu cases are also impacting local education.

The Chattanooga High School Center for Creative Arts currently has over 200 students out with flu-like symptoms and has temporarily moved to remote learning.

Smith says the decision to keep students away, for now, was the appropriate response.

“I think they probably made the right decision to kind of shut things down, to let it cool down, and then get back to it when everybody’s been exposed and has some antibodies,” Smith said.

“We already have a school closed,” Miller said. “I know of several schools, my own child’s school, that they are experiencing high numbers of children that are having to go home with this.”

Miller says that due to being cautious over COVID-19 and socially distancing from others over the past two years, the flu was “extremely mild.”

But this year, residual resistance and antibodies against the flu aren’t as strong as in years past.

“Years of flu shots and years of flu exposure [have] had a chance to drop, so our population is more susceptible to it,” Miller said. “So now more than ever, it’s imperative that anyone six months and older get their flu shot.”

Miller says for those who still haven’t received their shot, the Hamilton County Health Department is soon hosting local flu shot events.

On November 9, you will be able to get a free flu shot at the Orchard Knob Baptist Church in Chattanooga.

Given the severity of this year’s flu season, both he and Smith highly recommend receiving one.

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