News 12 at 11 / Thursday, January 30, 2014
AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- This year's flu strain is downright nasty.
Between South Carolina and Georgia, almost 90 people have died because of the virus. Experts say the H1N1 strain is to blame. It's the same flu strain that caused the pandemic back in 2009, and now it's back causing trouble again.
Normally we're worried about the elderly -- and the babies -- but this year the flu is hitting a different target.
"A lot of young people had flu before but this year it has been more severe," Infectious Diseases Doctor Tarak Patel explained.
It's the bug that's crippling work place attendance and keeping you in bed when you should be out playing in the snow.
"This has been a very active flu season, and the numbers have been higher than it has been before in Augusta and in Georgia," he said.
The H1N1 virus is back for round two, and doctors say it's leaving people sicker than ever. Instead of the usual body aches, fever and chills, this strain takes it a step further.
"In severe cases, we will see them getting pneumonia, getting kidney issues, liver failure, or they end up in ICU sometimes," Dr. Patel said.
Instead of hitting its regular targets, which are usually people with more compromised immune systems like the elderly or babies, this year, the flu is hitting middle aged and young people.
"We think this year the flu season is very severe on people, particularly young age people," Dr. Patel said. "It does affect the whole spectrum, but we see a lot of cases in the middle-age from 20 to 40 years."
Dr. Patel says the severity comes from the fact H1N1 is a relatively new strain, and people aren't vaccinating.
"H1N1 is a new strain that we discovered in 2009. It hasn't infected many people in the past, so when we get the infection the first time, we get a severe flu attack," Dr. Patel explained.
Nearly 40 Georgians have died from this year's flu, a major increase from the 10 deaths we saw last year. Add nearly 50 more flu fatalities out of South Carolina, and it makes for one deadly flu season, and it's not over yet.
Flu season typically runs between November and February, but Dr. Patel says the virus thrives in cold weather, so the longer we have a cold season, the longer flu season we'll see.
Dr. Patel says it's never too late to get the flu shot and still recommends getting one if you haven't yet.