At least 19 dead from flu in Middle Tennessee

At least 19 dead from flu in Middle Tennessee

Posted:
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -

Officials at Vanderbilt University Medical Center now say at least 19 Middle Tennesseans have died from the flu.

"We're in the middle of influenza season this year and we've already exceeded last year's total," said Dr. William Schaffner, chairman of the department of Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University. "So we're clearly on the severe end of the spectrum and what's disturbing to us is that this flu strain seems to attack, seems to like younger adults and children."

The number is far greater than the 11 deaths reported last year in the 7-county Middle Tennessee area, and there are still two months left in the flu season.

This year's flu strain has also led to at least 493 hospitalizations compared to 437 last year.

Dr. Schaffner told News 2 most of the victims of this year's influenza strain were treated for pneumonia.

"Influenza can certainly harm people who are old and frail, but it can also take a perfectly healthy person and put them in the hospital in 48 hours," said Schaffner. "The deaths take a little longer than the acute cases, so as we go along throughout the flu season I'm afraid we will accumulate people who've been victimized."

Doctors say it is still not too late to get a flu shot.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that most people over the age of 6 months get a flu shot.

While most county health departments have run out of the vaccine because they offered it for free in recent weeks, the shot is still available at doctor's offices and area pharmacies.

Tennessee's peak flu months are usually January and February, even though flu season can stretch from late fall to spring.

For more information visit CDC.gov/flu.

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