KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) – Pregnant woman and children are considered most at risk for health complications related to the H1N1 flu strain.
For that reason, doctors recommend both groups receive the H1N1 vaccine once it becomes available in mid-October.
The so-called “Swine Flu” has started popping up all over East Tennessee. Though most of the cases haven’t been confirmed by the state department of health, experts believe that because the regular flu season hasn’t arrived, the H1N1 strain is the likely culprit.
"Certainly the flu is in the area because we're seeing quite a bit of cases in medical center,” said Dr. Mark Rasnake, an infectious disease expert at the University of Tennessee Medical Center. “There are anywhere from 15 to 20 patients a day testing positive for influenza that likely have the new H1N1."
The strain can spread quickly because it’s possible to come down with it a week before the patient even feels sick. Patients can also be contagious up to 24 hours before recognize symptoms.
"The incubation period of this can be anywhere from one to seven days," said Dr. Rasnake.
Experts say mothers-to-be can be especially susceptible to the H1N1 strain because the immune system is typically lower during pregnancy. Some believe one third of pregnant women who come down with H1N1 will be hospitalized.
"We highly recommend they are vaccinated as well as report any exposure to their OB/GYN, as well as any symptom," said Dr. Natalie Blache, an OB/GYN
Children and adults with weakened immune systems are also urged to get both the season and H1N1 flu vaccines.
Doctors also say they best ways to prevent spreading the flu are by washing your hands and covering your mouth when coughing.