Flu cases taper off in Tennessee - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Flu cases taper off in Tennessee

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Tennessee health officials are seeing a drop in the number of flu cases after a spike earlier this month. 

School districts report fewer absences and several hospitals and walk-in clinics say they've noticed a slowdown.

"We believe that we hit our peak last week," said John Howser, spokesman for Vanderbilt University Medical Center. "The number of cases seen in the ER hit a high point on Sunday and have been tapering off ever since."

James Evans, Rutherford County Schools' community relations coordinator, said attendance was normal this week at 94 percent.

"Looks like we're on the tail end of this flu thing, as of now," he said. "Anything less than 10 percent absentees is normal."

But officials warn that flu season in Tennessee lingers into April and there could be another spike before it's over. 

Flu plays a role in about 36,000 U.S. deaths a year, 90 percent of those among people 65 and older.

Even though it appears to be on the wane in Tennessee, there's still a lot of flu cases out there. Doctors from 31 counties reported 1,410 flu-like illnesses last week. That number doesn't include the 1,278 cases reported in Davidson County.

Health experts recommend people use common sense precautions like frequent hand washing to prevent illness.

Dr. Kelly Moore, medical director of the Tennessee Immunization Program, said it's not too late to get a flu shot. The vaccine is usually 70 percent to 80 percent effective. 

This year, Moore said, the vaccine is estimated to be just over 50 percent effective in preventing flu, but it can still lessen the severity of the illness.

"It can make the difference been a serious case and mild case," Moore said. "It can still save lives."

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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