10 children, 1 pregnant woman have died of flu in Tennessee

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- A representative from the Tennessee Department of Health said Tuesday they had received reports of 10 pediatric deaths and the death of one pregnant woman associated with seasonal flu in Tennessee this season.

According to the TDOH, the pregnant woman died in Middle Tennessee, six children have died in Middle Tennessee, and four children have died in East Tennessee.

TDOH only keeps records of flu-related deaths of children and pregnant women.

"We are still urging people who have not yet had a flu vaccination this season to get one as soon as possible," TDOH spokesperson Bill Christian said. "Our county health department clinics are providing flu vaccines at no charge to patients until vaccine supplies are depleted. Flu vaccines are also widely available from a number of other health care providers."

Christian previously said children and pregnant women are among the groups of people at highest risk for complications from the seasonal flu.

Here are best health habits that could help to prevent the flu:

- Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water or use an alcohol based hand sanitizer
- Cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
- Stay home if you are sick

The Knox County Health Department encouraged residents to follow basic precautions to slow the spread of the flu virus and stay healthy.

"Many area hospitals are reporting a sharp increase in traffic in their emergency departments due to flu, respiratory illness and other conditions," KCHD Director Dr. Martha Buchanan said. "First and foremost, it's important for the public to know it's not too late to get a flu vaccine if they haven't already this season. It's also important that our community have information on both how to avoid infection as well as what to do if they get the flu, including when to go to the emergency room."

KCHD said they would be providing free flu vaccinations while supplies last at all three locations: the main location, 140 Dameron Avenue, West Clinic, 1028 Old Cedar Bluff Rd., and Teague Clinic, 405 Dante Rd. Appointments can be made by calling 865-215-5070. Clinics are open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Free flu vaccinations only apply to the standard flu shot, not the high-dose version recommended for those over 65 years old.

The KCHD released the following flu guidelines:

- If someone is mildly ill with flu symptoms, he or she should not go to the emergency room. Hospital emergency departments should be reserved for those who are severely ill or injured.

- The following mild flu symptoms usually do not require treatment at an emergency room: runny nose or nasal stuffiness, low-grade fever for less than three days, mild headache, body aches, or stomach upset. Instead of visiting the emergency room, call your health care provider or seek care at a walk-in clinic.

- Limit visits to friends and relatives in the hospital. Postpone visits to the hospital to protect patients, staff and yourself from the flu. If you must visit, check with the hospital first to see if any visitor restrictions have been established.