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Flu cases on the rise at Nashville hospital


The flu season is off to a rocky start this season.

One Nashville hospital has already seen triple the number of patients it did by this time last year. Those who are getting sick seem to be having a rougher go of it.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to track the flu. It appears Tennessee falls in the middle of the pack in the number of cases.

But those on the front lines will tell you what they've been seeing should be cause for concern.

"We're seeing a lot more adults with it," said Dr. Robert Page, medical director at Southern Hills Medical Center. "It's been a tough year so far, and it's early."

In the emergency room at Southern Hills, Page faces the same problem as plenty of doctors in Tennessee.

"It's a bad year this year," said Page. "The medicine we use, the Tamiflu, is not the best medicine in the world."

Normally Southern Hills ER would see about 50 cases of flu by this time of the year. So far this season, they have seen about 150, and more serious cases.

"It's probably been three or four years since we've hit numbers like this," said Page. "We admitted just a few last year. We've already admitted 10 this year."

The state does not track individual flu cases.

Generally Page believes this year's flu strains are more powerful and more serious.

"It is the most positive flu tests I've seen this early in 15 years of practice," said Page. "It's out there right now. It's out there in force."

That could be putting a pinch on hospital resources.

"We're seeing a lot of patients here that can't get in elsewhere," said Page.

Problematic, it seems, given the state's prediction things will only get worse in the new year.

"If you have the slightest chance of having it, don't go to school. Don't go to work," said Page. "That is very, very important."

Additionally, a number of cases tested positive for H1N1, the same strain that sparked concern nationally several years ago, reason enough to re-double efforts to stay healthy this time around.

"Get the vaccine. It's not too late," said Page. "That's really important."

Earlier this year researchers touted a new vaccine as more effective at protecting against four strains of the flu.

The problem? It wasn't more widely available.

Health experts said any vaccine can help stop the flu or lessen its impact.

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