Middle Tennessee flu deaths surpass 2009-2010

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - 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, told The Tennessean (http://tnne.ws/1bmpJWu) 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.

Patrick Sass is among 12 middle-aged people in Middle Tennessee to die from the flu, compared to three victims over the age of 65, Vanderbilt’s figures show.

Sass was described by his family as a strong, healthy outdoorsman who got sick with the flu around Christmas. He was in respiratory distress when he went to NorthCrest Medical Center in Springfield on the night of Jan. 1, Chris Sass said. He was flown to Vanderbilt University Medical Center after doctors discovered that one of his lungs was completely filled with fluid and the other was 80 percent full. Doctors placed him in a medically induced coma for several days, but he still suffered extensive brain damage and could not be revived, the son said.

He died leaving a wife and three children.

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Information from: The Tennessean, http://www.tennessean.com

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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