Flu activity in Tennessee subsiding but remains high

FILE - A flu vaccine is readied at the L.A. Care and Blue Shield of California Promise Health Plans' Community Resource Center where they were offering members and the public free flu and COVID-19 vaccines Friday, Oct. 28, 2022, in Lynwood, Calif. On Friday, Dec. 2, 2022, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that 7.5% of outpatient medical visits the previous week were due to flu-like illnesses. That's as high as the peak of the 2017-18 flu season and higher than any season since. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File)

Tennessee's flu season came early and hit hard but appears to be subsiding, although influenza-like illness activity remains high, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As of Friday, Tennessee had dropped from the highest classification, denoted by the color purple, to the next highest classification (dark red) on the CDC's weekly influenza surveillance report.

"Seasonal influenza activity remains high but is declining in most areas," according to the latest report.

In Chattanooga, influenza-like illness reports peaked between late October and early November and have been declining since, according to surveillance from the Hamilton County Health Department. The latest report from the Health Department shows flu activity still remains high.

Statewide, flu-like illnesses peaked Nov. 20 and have declined in the weeks since, according to the Tennessee Department of Health.


This fall has seen the most severe flu season in years, with an estimated 190,000 hospitalizations and 12,000 deaths so far, according to the CDC.

Children in particular have been disproportionately impacted by the flu and seen more hospitalizations than prior seasons, according to data analysis from Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

(READ MORE: Respiratory viruses, other ailments causing record-breaking patient surge at Erlanger Children's hospital)

"In Tennessee, we are seeing an earlier season for respiratory viruses in general, and flu is a part of that," Dr. Christine Thomas, a CDC officer who works with the Tennessee Department of Health, said in a news release from Vanderbilt. "Just having that knowledge can help health facilities prepare. It also underscores the importance of people getting their yearly influenza shot, especially as activities resume and we are seeing all these viruses again.

"I just want to emphasize that it is not too late to get your flu vaccine and to do what you can to protect yourself this season," Thomas said.

At least 47 children in the U.S. have died so far this season due to influenza, according to the CDC.

Meanwhile, signs point to increased COVID-19 transmission across the Chattanooga region, as COVID-19 hospitalizations in Hamilton County have nearly tripled since early November, according to health department data.

Contact Elizabeth Fite at efite@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6673.