How battling the flu changes life in East Tennessee

David Ball # State

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Is the only way to stay away from the flu donning a HAZMAT suit and ordering hand sanitizer in bulk?

A recent study found that around 18 million adults will miss about four days of work this year because of the flu. In East Tennessee, several school systems have called off classes due to student--and teacher--illness.

Local sheriff's offices and jails have also been forced to deal with the virus, and confined spaces make a highly contagious virus even easier to catch.

Local 8 News reporter David Ball spent some time in Cocke County, where he caught up with Sheriff Armando Fontes to see how law enforcement battles the virus.

"Actually, we are doing fairly decent,"
Sheriff Fontes said.
"They did close one of our grammar schools because of illness; thankfully, some weather allowed for decent breaks. Department-wide, we are good, we've had a few officers get the flu, but overall we are doing well."

While law enforcement agencies battle the flu within their departments, the virus continues to halt work and daily life in East Tennessee.

Each clinic or pediatrician's office Local 8 News reached out to said they were very busy with patients from the time they opened until closing time, as of Tuesday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said young children and older seniors are much more likely to experience complications from the flu; as of a weekly report released Friday, February 2, 53 children have died from the flu virus across the country.

While the CDC does not report elderly deaths from the flu, Shannondale Nursing Facility in Knoxville said they've seen several patients with the flu, and they've had to cut down on community activities to try and keep the sick isolated. Shannondale employees also asked patients' families to refrain from visiting, or to at least keep visits short. A spokesperson for the facility said staying healthy is a top priority, but some of the residents tend to become restless during the flu season.

"You know, folks want to feel well and stay well, and this population, you're probably a little more susceptible than others,"
Vice President of Shannondale Keith Boyce said.
"Patients want to be able to get out and do things in the facility or get down in the lobby or dining room and do what they are used to doing."

Shannondale said overall, they've seen a manageable number of flu cases, but their rooms are full because hospitals are trying to keep their beds open and will send recovering patients to places like nursing facilities.