Influenza is to blame for at least two child deaths in Hamilton County so far this flu season, according to data from the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department. 

Although those deaths occurred in 2019, the health department recommends that those who haven't yet received a flu shot this season get one ASAP, because flu virus activity can continue into May. Vaccination is especially important for individuals who are more likely to die from the flu, such as children, older adults and people with chronic conditions.

Dr. Paul Hendricks, Hamilton County health officer, said although the flu is a potentially deadly illness, it's also preventable and manageable.

"Yes, we're still in the flu season, and you should still get your flu shot as soon as possible for everyone over the age of 6 months," Hendricks said. "We still have free vaccines available at the health department regardless of insurance status." 

Flu prevention tips

The most effective way to prevent flu is to get the annual influenza vaccine. Other preventive measures include:

Wash hands often with soap and warm water.

Avoid people who are sick.

If you become sick, seek medical care, take prescribed medications and remain at home.

Cover your cough or sneeze and throw away used tissues.

Keep your immune system healthy by quitting tobacco, eating healthy, being active and getting quality sleep.

Source: Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department

The flu vaccine is available at these health department locations:

Third Street Main Campus: adults call 423-209-8340 for appointment, children walk-in or call 423-209-8050 for more information

Ooltewah Health Center: walk-in or call 423-238-4269 for more information

Sequoyah Health Center: walk-in or call 423-842-3031 for more information

Birchwood Health Center: walk-in or appointment, call 423-961-0446 to make appointment or for more information

The year's flu season got off to an early start, with activity surging in December 2019 and tapering off to normal levels in January. Since the season began, 54 pediatric deaths have been reported in the United States, with six deaths occurring in Tennessee and four in Georgia, according to the the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state departments of health. 

Tennessee's flu activity is currently highest in Shelby County.