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Middle Tennessee flu deaths surpass '09-10

Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Nineteen people in Middle Tennessee have died from complications from the flu - a death toll that now surpasses the number of lives lost in the region during the 2009-2010 flu pandemic.

Vanderbilt University, which tracks an eight-county area, says that most of the deaths are among people between the ages of 41 and 64. This year's prominent flu strain, H1N1, generally hits people in the prime of their life.

Among the latest victims is 46-year-old Patrick Sass of Greenbrier. Sass's son, Chris Sass, said that his father died Tuesday at Vanderbilt University Medical Center from complications from H1N1.

"He hadn't had a flu shot, and he wasn't going to the doctor," Chris Sass said. "When he finally went in, it had just gotten too far."

Vanderbilt is tracking the number of deaths and monitoring the area's 492 flu hospitalizations during this flu season. Figures show a total of 14 deaths during the 2009-2010 flu season. What health officials don't know is whether any of the victims who died had flu shots.

Comparing flu deaths year by year can be tricky because sometimes people will get sick, have complications late in the course of their illness but no longer test positive for the flu when they are hospitalized, said Dr. Kelly Moore, director of immunizations for the Tennessee Department of Health.

Still, Moore said, what's notable this flu season is who is getting sick, not how many.

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