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Flu Deaths in Tennessee Could Be More Than Reported--Mikayla Lewis

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NASHVILLE, Tenn.--The Tennessee State Health Department says the latest flu fatality is a child. The death toll is nearly a dozen people this season, but the real number could be even higher.

The state health department only tracks flu-related deaths in children and pregnant women. The CDC uses special studies from area clinics to estimate the majority of flu-like cases. Health workers say the number reported so far, could be just the tip of the ice-burg.

Dr. Kelly Moore, state health department immunization director said, " In a mild season we might estimate that fewer than a hundred people die of flu, but in a severe season it could a thousand or more."

It's too early in the season to know how many deaths will occur from the flu this year, but the death toll could be much higher right now.

Dr. Kelly Moore explained," The reason we don't count cases is that the flu contributes to many deaths that are not recognized as being caused by the flu. It can trigger heart attack in someone with heart disease, and contribute to other illnesses like pneumonia."
 
Macon County pastor, Johnathan Martin died just a couple of weeks ago. The 36-year-old's family says he passed away after getting H1N1 and developing acute respiratory distress syndrome.

Andrea  Martin, Johnathan's wife told Fox 17, "To an extent it makes me feel guilty that I didn't make him get a flu shot."

The state health department says the best defense against the flu is to get the vaccine. It comes in various forms like the shot and nasal spray. Pharmacies like the Green Hills Kroger offer flu vaccinations, which covers H1N1. The strain primarily is hitting younger adults like Martin.

Kroger Pharmacist, Mike Clepper said, "Younger people tend to put the flu shots off, because they think they're healthy and they're not going to get the flu."

The health department says the flu is spreading more quickly with people staying indoors, to escape the cold weather. Washing hands frequently and the vaccine are important.

Dr. Moore added, "Any kind of flu can be deadly to any person under the right circumstances."

The state health department says it is not too late to get your flu vaccine. Even if you think you were already sick from the flu this season, you can still get another strain later on.

Follow Mikayla Lewis on Twitter @MikaylaFox17

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