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Deadly flu spreads across country

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    Friday, October 4 2013 3:43 PM EDT2013-10-04 19:43:45 GMT
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SOUTHAVEN, Miss. (FOX13) -

The Centers for Disease Control is reporting this season's flu is the cause of several deaths and a spike in hospital visits.

Twenty-five states including Tennessee, Arkansas, and Mississippi are reporting an increase in the flu. Doctors say this flu strain is especially dangerous to children.

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Mid-South hospitals have all seen an increase in patients coming in with flu-like symptoms.

"They may have put it off as just being a cold and then it got worse and worse," said Amy Kirby, Baptist Memorial Hospital-DeSoto Infectious Prevention Manager. "They come in and also have secondary pneumonia or secondary bacterial infections."

Kirby said the predominant strain of influenza is the H1N1, the same strain during the 2009 pandemic. She says the flu is always especially tough on the elderly, pregnant women and children.

In 2013 171 children died from complications of the flu and 381,000 people were hospitalized. There are now two reported pediatric deaths in Mississippi, seven deaths in Arkansas and none in Tennessee.

"It taxes your body's immune system, so that when  you do encounter other types of infections, like bacterial pneumonia, you want to be able to fight those too," Kirby said. "But if your immune system is already in overdrive, fighting the flu you may not have the defenses you need to fight other more serious infections."

If you already have symptoms of the flu, Kirby said that's too late to get the flu shot, but you do need to get treated.

"That's the time to go get an anti-viral, go see your primary care physician," she said. "The times to get the flu shot is when it first comes out, when it first becomes available."

Kirby said flu season will continue until late February or early March. She said besides getting the flu shot prevention is still the same.

"Be very diligent washing your hands frequently, coughing, sneezing, covering your cough and sneeze," she said.

If you haven't received a flu shot you are urged to get one. The CDC also said the flu vaccine prevented 6.6 million from getting sick during the last flu season.

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