Flu outbreak: Hundreds of local cases, one death
JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. - Three strains of the flu virus are widespread throughout the country, and the H3-N2 strain is proving to be the strongest.
"H3-N2 is the really bad one, it's the one that we're seeing more severe illness. Why we're seeing such a difficult season so far is because H3-N2 is by far the the dominant strain that's circulating," says Jamie Swift with Mountain States Health Alliance.
It's characterized by more severe flu-like symptoms.
"We've already seen severe cases in the area. We have seen hospitalizations, we've seen hospitalizations in critical care units, we've seen patients end up on the ventilator with flu, so really having difficulty breathing, and we have had one death related to flu here locally," Swift says.
That local death was of an elderly person; they're at a higher risk, along with children.
"Our elderly population and our young children often don't have the immune system to fight things off that an average healthy, middle aged adult might," Swift says.
Flu cases reported at Mountain States Health Alliance are climbing quickly.
"Positive tests within the Mountain State's hospitals and ED's, not even our outpatients, but within our hospitals and our ED's in the past three weeks, we've had over 900 positive cases," Swift says.
Within the Wellmont Health System, there have been more than 650 cases at urgent care clinics since Christmas Eve.
"They have a cough, and they have a fever, that's the most common symptoms we see," says Dr. Dane Lee with Wellmont Health System.
Doctors say one of the best ways to prevent getting the flu, or lessen its severity is to get a flu shot.
"Wash your hands good, don't touch your face, and also the shot is still the most important thing is the vaccine," Dr. Lee says.