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Tennessee official: No cause for panic over flu

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  • Tennessee official: No cause for panic over flu

    Tennessee official: No cause for panic over flu
    Swine flu has been similar to seasonal flu, vaccine expected to arrive in October

    September 19, 2009

    NASHVILLE ? The state's medical epidemiologist said Friday that there's no need for people to panic despite an increased number of deaths and school closings in Tennessee due to the swine flu.

    Dr. Tim Jones said the first shipment of vaccine for the virus is expected in Tennessee by the middle of next month.

    So far, he said there have been seven confirmed state deaths as a result of the swine flu and several schools have been closed because of some confirmed cases and other flu-like illnesses.

    Jones said it's important to be educated about the swine flu and to take it seriously.

    However, he said on a percentage basis, it's no more severe than the regular seasonal flu, which kills about 36,000 people nationwide each year. In Tennessee, Jones said that number is about 700.

    "There have been deaths ... and those are tragic, we all hate to hear about them," Jones said of the swine flu fatalities, adding that the number is not "unexpectedly high" compared to other states. "But there's absolutely no reason to panic."

    The Tennessee deaths include a 5-year-old boy in Davidson County and a Shelby County eighth-grade boy.

    Jones said the state can't offer an exact count of swine flu cases, but he said there have been "many thousands" of reported cases, though many have not been confirmed.

    However, a number of schools have been closed because of confirmed cases, Jones said. They include all the schools in Anderson and Loudon counties, and one in Monroe County ? all in East Tennessee.

    There have been no reports of Tennessee colleges or universities shutting down.

    Overall, Jones said he's pleased with the preparedness work of Tennessee health officials at the local, county and state levels. He cited the creation of a registry that will help speed distribution of the vaccine by the Health Department.

    "It's a model ... other states have emulated," said Dr. William Schaffner, a vaccine specialist at Vanderbilt University.
    "Safety and security don't just happen, they are the result of collective consensus and public investment. We owe our children, the most vulnerable citizens in our society, a life free of violence and fear."
    -Nelson Mandela