(WBIR-Knoxville) Hospital officials said January is already on track to be worse than December for flu cases, and medical workers are not only swamped with helping patients who are battling the flu, but they're also dealing with a shortage of resources.
"We have an influx of patients. We have quite a few in fact, we counted this morning 15 cases in isolation," said Lorene Cathey, the infection prevention manager with University of Tennessee Medical Center.
Cathey said H1N1, which hit hard back in 2009 and 2010, and Influenza Type A are circulating this season, keeping hospitals packed.
"Our critical care units in the city are at max. They're full. Our ventilator usage is way, way up. In fact I think the community is doing a ventilator audit right now to see where we're at in the community as far as available ventilators. "
One of the most recent victims is an 11-year-old girl from Hendersonville, Savannah Hyden. Her uncle lives in Southeast Tennessee.
"She couldn't go without everybody hugging her. She loved to hug. She was just a special, special girl," said Aaron Hyden.
Hyden said her neice passed away Wednesday, a few days after being hospitalized at Monroe Carrell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt.
"She stopped breathing in her bed at home . And it turns out her lungs were filled with fluid from the flu, from H1N1," said Hyden.
While flu related deaths are only reported in children and pregnant women, according to the Tennessean, at least nine other people have died from flu complications across the state, including the Cumberland region.
Cathey and medical experts across the state urged everyone to get vaccinated.
"Especially children and young adults," said Cathey. "They've probably not been exposed to H1N1 and even the flu A that's going around this year. Those of us that are older were probably exposed to it in the '50s and '60s and have some immunity, but it's really affecting the middle age, young adults."
10News checked in with East Tennessee Children's Hospital as well. Officials said doctors have seen 95 positive cases in the first nine days of January, compared to 152 cases for the entire month of December, but they don't have a shortage of beds or ventilators.
ETCH said the numbers are not as high as this time last year, but staff is seeing cases from the H1N1 strain.
10News also spoke with the Knox County Health Department, which said their staff helps hospitals that are dealing with ICU bed and ventilator shortages.
"Reality is every year during flu season, every hospital experiences shortage of beds and critical care resources. Most people don't know that, but they all have plans for that. So not unusual to see this shortage at the hospital level. But rarely do they call us and say they're having trouble finding resources," said Katharine Killen, community relations director with the Knox County Health Department.
Killen said there are other illnesses that could be adding to the shortage, and the Knox County Health Department is looking into what is causing those illnesses.
Hyden said he hopes parents get their children vaccinated, and takes their kids who are sick to the hospital immediately, to prevent another young death.
"Pray for the family, the parents," said Hyden. "Just pray for those kids. They lost a wonderful sister."
Hyden said a Savannah Memorial Fund has been set up and contributions can be made at any Regions Bank.