TAMPA, Fla. - Influenza is on the rise in the Tampa Bay area according to data released by the Florida Health Department.
According to the health department, there is an increasing number of cases across the state, with Hillsborough County reporting the highest number of cases.
The state health department said there was also an outbreak reported at a Polk County elementary school and several pregnant women have been hospitalized with the flu, at least one of them in intensive care at a hospital in Tampa Bay.
Three pediatric deaths have been reported this flu season, including one unvaccinated child this week in Monroe County.
Most of the patients are testing positive for H1N1, the flu strain also known as swine flu, which can be serious in pregnant women. "This particular strain of H1N1 seems to be more serious in terms of its respiratory affects than other strains circulating," said Dr. Catherine Lynch, Medical Director of Obstetrics at Tampa General Hospital.
Babies younger than 6 months old cannot be vaccinated against the flu, so it's important that everyone get a flu shot. "They need to get the vaccine to help those who are vulnerable and can't perhaps get the vaccine," said Dr. Lynch.
Influenza often peaks in late January and February, said the health department. So, after a slow start to the season, this current activity level is consistent with the trend, the department said.