Health Officials: Age of Victims Unusual in Flu-Related Deaths

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CLEVELAND – A recent rash of deaths from the flu has Cuyahoga County health officials concerned.

"We've seen nine flu-related deaths this season. Eight of those have occurred within the last three weeks," Richard Stacklin, a researcher for the Cuyahoga County Board of Health, said.

It is not the number of people killed that is unusual; it is the ages of those victims.

"Five out of the eight deaths that occurred within the last three weeks were between the ages of 40 to 59 years old," Stacklin said.

Health officials say the dominant flu strain this year is the H1N1 virus-- the same one we saw four years ago.

"It’s unusual that it attacks people between 20-59 years old," Stacklin said.

"H1N1 tends to most severely affect people who are young adults or middle-aged, rather than the usual flu strains which attack the very young and the very old," Dr. Melissa Osborn, an infectious disease physician with MetroHealth Medical Center, said.

This year's vaccine protects you from four strains of the flu, including the H1N1.

Osborn said people cannot get the flu from the flu shot because it is not a live virus.

Osborn the flu has specific symptoms.

"The biggest symptoms of the flu are body aches and high fevers, lots of respiratory complaints, cough, maybe a little bit of shortness of breath. The things we don't see with the flu are stomach upset, nausea, vomiting,"

Hand washing helps prevent spreading the flu.

Stacklin said he first, most powerful, round of flu season peaked in December and the second round should strike in February or March.

Anyone needing a flu shot who may not be able to afford one should contact the Cuyahoga County Board of Health at (216) 201-2000.

*Click HERE to read more on the flu.