Flu Season Triggers Memory of 1957 Outbreak (230)

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Winnie Thomas doubts she will again see as many influenza cases as she did her first year as a nurse in the University of Tennessee’s student health services clinic.

 The outbreak began, 40 years ago, in the fall of 1957.

“We had a terrible epidemic that fall,” Thomas said Wednesday. “We filled up 30 beds and then we sent a lot of people home because we didn’t have space for any more.”

 Outbreaks the following year and the year after also were severe, but over the years flu has become less a health problem on campus, Thomas said.

 “Vaccines are more effective and many more people take them,” said Thomas, whose office this fall administered flu shots to more than 2,000 students, faculty and staff.

 The health clinic at UT-Knoxville has seen no flu cases this semester, Thomas said.

 Time is running out to take the vaccine for maximum effectiveness during this flu season.

 “It is getting late,” Thomas said. “The vaccine takes about four weeks to be most effective and the flu in East Tennessee is expected to peak in February.”

 The flu vaccine is recommended for older persons, persons with respiratory problems, and persons with compromised immune systems, Thomas said.

 “Anyone who doesn’t want to get the flu should take the vaccine,” Thomas said.

 Contact: Winnie Thomas (423-974-2262)