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Tenn. Reports First Death of Flu Season

December 9, 2003

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) _ Tennessee has recorded its first death related to this flu season, and health officials say more problems could be on the way.

An elderly Davidson County man with other health problems died last week from complications related to the flu, state health officials said Monday. His name and further details were not released. There have been no other confirmed flu deaths in Tennessee this season, health officials said.

An estimated 700 to 900 people in Tennessee are killed by the flu each season, but the state does not track each flu-related death, said Brian Todd, spokesman for the Metro Public Health Department in Nashville. The annual outbreak typically peaks in January or February.

``It’s still early in the season,″ said Dr. Timothy Jones, deputy state epidemiologist for the Tennessee Department of Health in Nashville. ``We’ve had about a dozen lab-confirmed cases before Thanksgiving, and this is the first time in years that’s happened before the holidays.″

Jones said the state was preparing for a bad year because of five flu-related deaths in Colorado and Texas. Each year an average of 36,000 people die from the flu in the United States and another 114,000 are hospitalized.

Schools in Trousdale County, 35 miles northeast of Nashville, are closed until Monday because so many of their 1,300 students have the flu, said Kim Karesh, spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Education. Trousdale is the only school system in Tennessee to have closed because of the flu, Karesh said.

Memphis and Shelby County has had 653 flu-like illnesses reported, which is high for this time of year, said Brenda Ward, spokeswoman for the local health department. ``There’s a lot of activity across the nation, and I don’t think Memphis and Shelby County will be much different,″ she said.

Demand for flu vaccine has outstripped supply in many parts of the country, but it’s still generally available throughout Tennessee. The Memphis area is expected to deplete its supply of the flu vaccine Tuesday, but officials hope to receive an additional 2,000 does by the end of the week.

The health department in Memphis had 14,000 doses for the 2003-04 flu season, but seven of Shelby County’s eight public health clinics were out of the vaccine Monday.

Rose Freytag, nursing supervisor at the Morgan County Health Department in Wartburg, said they had run out of the adult flu vaccine, but local hospitals still had it.

In Bradley County, Eloise Waters, director of the health department, said her staff has given more than 500 shots and supplies are running low. But the vaccine is still available at area pharmacies and from doctors.

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