Uptick in flu cases reported in Florida


Health officials are encouraging residents to get flu vaccines after reporting a recent uptick in cases in the state.

State Surgeon General Dr. John Armstrong said one of the biggest concerns for the severe cases of the flu is pregnant women, which makes it five times more severe.

"We are very concerned that in all those cases, 9 to date, none of these women had received the flu shot," Armstrong said.

Both Marion and Brevard counties report an increase in flu cases.

"We have had quite an increase in the reports from hospitals," Barry Inman, an epidemiologist with the Department of Health in Brevard told Local 6 news partner Florida Today. He said the department does not keep a hard count on the number of cases, but of activity levels.

"We have had some severe cases that we have not seen in the past, at least not since the pandemic in 2009," Inman said, which is what has department officials most concerned.

The 2009 outbreak infected more than 43 million people, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.

Dr. Robert Beatty, medical director of the emergency room of Wuesthoff Medical Center-Rockledge, said his department treated more than 180 patients for influenza in December, but expects more in the coming months.

"The season usually peaks in January and February," he said.

Meanwhile, officials in Orange County and Seminole County's health department say there is no increase in flu cases for the year so far. Both counties are experiencing mild cases of the flu-- with an expected gradual increase leading to February. February is the peak season for the flu.

The CDC says influenza kills about 36,000 people a year in the United States. Flu symptoms often appear quickly and include a fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, fatigue and headaches or body aches.

The agency said in its most recent report that flu activity is increasing nationally, and it expects that trend to continue in the coming weeks.

The best way to avoid the flu is by getting vaccinated.