Nashville’s Winter 2020 Flu Season Update
While flu has been active in Nashville since the beginning of November, the holidays brought a big increase of cases into our West Nashville urgent care clinic. Holiday travel coupled with two active strains of the flu has made for a busy flu season in Nashville and nation-wide. Read on to learn more about this year’s unique flu season and what you can do to protect your family!
Current flu activity in Nashville and across the nation
The CDC tracks flu activity weekly, so we as health care providers can determine where and when the flu is most active. Nearly all 50 states reported “widespread” flu activity the last week of December, and widespread activity has been reported in Tennessee since the second week of December. As was expected (see our Fall 2019 Flu report here), flu activity started early in the US, however it is expected to remain elevated for many more weeks.
One of the most unusual aspects of this year’s flu season are the flu strains circulating. Usually we experience an early season predominance of Type A flu, followed by a later season Type B flu strain. This year, however, Type B has predominated early with a Type A (H1N1) strain picking up in December. The Type B flu strain can be harder on the immune system of children, especially those under five years of age. Unfortunately Tennessee has experienced two pediatric flu deaths this year, and there have been 32 pediatric flu deaths nation-wide – double the number as the same time last year.
Symptoms of this year’s flu virus
The most common flu symptoms we see in our Nashville urgent care and primary care clinics are sudden onset of fever, body aches, sore throat and a dry cough. See the chart below for more information on differentiating the flu from a common respiratory virus/cold.
Treatment for the flu
Should you or a family member experience flu-like symptoms, quick medical evaluation and possible flu testing is warranted to determine if antiviral medication should be started. Complete Urgent Care on Charlotte Pike in West Nashville offers expert urgent care providers with rapid flu testing every day to determine the most appropriate course of treatment for your illness. Antiviral medications must be started within 48 hours of symptom onset, so don’t wait to be seen! The most commonly known flu antiviral is Tamiflu, however a new antiviral, Xofluza, is available this year. Our urgent care team has seen a quick symptom response in those patients taking Xofluza, however it is not approved for children or women who are pregnant or nursing. For basic flu management, work to control fever with fever-reducing medicine and ensure that anyone with the flu or flu-like symptoms maintains adequate hydration and gets enough rest.
Protecting your family if someone gets the flu
- Wear a facemask to prevent the spread of germs – this is especially important for nursing mothers. The flu is spread by respiratory droplets, so coughs and sneezes will be contained within the mask.
- Have one “sick room” for the family member to stay and one sick bathroom – designate one parent to care for sick children.
- Disinfect the sick room and bathroom daily – wash and dry sheets on the hottest settings, clean surfaces with antibacterial products and throw away disposable personal items such as toothbrushes and contacts.
- Don’t share personal items such as towels, hand towels, handheld devices such as phones or tablets, glasses or silverware
- Everyone should wash hands often with soap and water
- Consider prophylactic antiviral medication for the family. In some cases, it may be beneficial for family members to start antiviral medication to prevent the flu. This may be a consideration for those who are pregnant, elderly or those with an impaired immune system.
The flu shot
Early information about this year’s flu shot shows that it likely was a good match for the Type A (H1N1) flu strain that is circulating, but might not be as good of a match for the Type B strain. We still do not have a lot of data about this at this time, as it is still early in the flu season. One fact that is true every year is the best method we have to protect against the flu is a flu shot. While it may not guarantee you do not get the flu, those patients who do get the flu who have had a flu shot are less likely to be hospitalized with the flu than those who get the flu and have not been vaccinated. As long as flu is circulating it is not too late to get a flu shot!
Get immediate medical help (call 911 or visit an emergency room) if someone with the flu exhibits troubled or fast breathing, decreased urinary output, decreased fluid intake or lack of appetite, fever with a rash, decreased responsiveness, bluish skin tone or irritability. If symptoms improve and then return or worsen, this could be a sign of a secondary infection such as pneumonia, and further medical evaluation is also warranted.
Our West Nashville urgent care clinic is open 7 days a week for evaluation of flu-like symptoms. With onsite lab testing (including rapid flu tests), onsite x-ray, IV fluids and breathing treatments, we can help care for your non-emergent illnesses and injuries every day. Conveniently located in the Nashville West Shopping Center near Costco and Target, we serve Nashvillians from Bellevue to Downtown and from Ashland City to the Gulch. Our urgent care clinic is locally owned and operated by emergency room physicians, so we can care for more than the typical walk in clinic!