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Flu Difficult To Track

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(Memphis) News Channel 3 is On Your Side with a health alert for your family.

This year’s flu virus arrived earlier than normal and health officials say it’s causing more serious side effects. They say it’s hitting harder in the south.

There is no way to tell for sure how many people are affected by the flu in Memphis because we found out there is no official tracking system, but Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell is putting the health department on alert he wants daily updates.

“I noticed yesterday the city of Boston declared a public health emergency and checking with our public health officials this morning we're not nearly to that point,” said Luttrell.

The flu bug is spreading in the mid-south and we may not have seen the worst of it.

A map from the Centers for Disease Control shows more cases in the south than anywhere else.

However, because not everyone who gets the flu goes to the doctor or gets tested the CDC admits the numbers are only estimates.

That is something Mayor Luttrell also just found out, “I asked our health department this morning to give us some hard data that we can rely on and they said the hard data we have comes from communication with all of our sources."

The health department’s sources are area churches, medical facilities and anyplace there are children.

Memphis Schools sent home a letter and helpful tips warning parents but neither they nor county schools track the number of students who get the flu.

Both document unusually high absences but as of today report no signs of an outbreak. Still, the mayor worries if we are prepared enough.

“We're not prepared when it comes to the number of people who have not taken advantage of immunizations so we are going to continue to push immunization. Immunizations will make us better prepared,” said Luttrell.

The health department says it's important that people get the flu shot because we may not have seen the largest spike in the virus.

Flu season traditionally lasts through February.

As of today, the health department has given out 3,000 vaccines but that doesn’t include the number give at doctor’s offices and local pharmacies.