NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) – As the flu continues to spread, it has left some school districts in central Tennessee closed.
Schools in Coffee County and Perry County were closed Monday due to flu cases. Cannon County schools closed for three days last week for the same reason.
Hickman County schools will be closed Tuesday due to flu cases.
The southeastern and south-central states have the most flu cases, according to the CDC. So far, 730 people have died from the flu this year, including two children.
Health officials say hospitals haven’t been this inundated with flu patients since the swine flu outbreak in 2009. Now, doctors are urging everyone to get a flu shot before the holiday season.
“If you get it now, two weeks will be right before Thanksgiving. Many people will be traveling and reuniting with family. Obviously, that’s an opportunity to be unexpectedly exposed. We have seen increases during those same types of events in the past with COVID,” said Dr. Gill Wright, director of the Metro Nashville Department of Public Health.
Jeanne Pierce, the mother of a high school student in Coffee County, said parents and students were told last week there would be no school Monday.
“Here we go again. It’s flu season. It happens every year and hopefully, every year we hope it’s less and less,” Pierce said.
Coffee County school officials said the decision to close was made due to a recent spike in flu cases among staff and students.
Pierce said this is not the first school year the school district has closed due to the flu.
“This is very worrying. The dominant strain that has been circulating is the H3N2 strain. And that is stress that is known to be particularly severe in young children and the elderly,” said Dr. James Antoon, a pediatric hospitalist at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.
“Children continue to go to school if they don’t feel well. If they have a little cold or they think it’s a cold or they think it’s allergies. They don’t know it’s the flu until they have a fever,” Pierce said.
Dr. Antoon said fewer people are getting a flu shot this year and that flu shot is the best protection for children and those around them.
“We also know that this will get worse before it gets better, so vaccination is important,” said Dr. Antoon.
Coffee County school officials expect last weekend plus Monday’s school closure and Tuesday’s “service” day to cite
“It interrupts the viral infection cycle and allows us to resume our normal activities,” said Dr. Antoon.
“I tell my daughter to try to stay away from people if they are sick, wash your hands. Don’t touch your face. Try to stay away from large groups of people, but it’s hard when you’re walking down the aisles together. Close contact,” Pierce said.
Dr. Antoon reminds parents that there is an antiviral treatment for the flu
“Any child who has had less than 2 days of symptoms is eligible to receive a medication called Tamiflu or which is known to help limit the duration of flu symptoms and help them return to school faster,” said the Dr Anton.
Antoon said that any child or anyone who is at high risk for complications from the flu, those children are eligible to receive Tamiflu regardless of how long they’ve had symptoms, and that includes children under 5 years of age.
“Tamiflu can also be used prophylactically, so a child who is at high risk and has been exposed to the flu through close contact, can use Tamiflu to help prevent infection in that child,” said Dr. Antoon.
Coffee County Schools students are expected to return to classrooms on Wednesday.
Doctors say it’s especially important to get a flu shot this year because the virus has mutated so much.
On Wednesday, November 9, you can get free flu shots at the Lentz Public Health Center and four other locations in Nashville. This is part of a statewide vaccination event called “Fight Flu TN” with vaccination events taking place in every county in Tennessee.
Here is a list of places participating in “Fight Flu TN” and offering free flu shots on November 9:
WSMV’s Joylyn Bukovac has the latest on the worsening flu season.
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