KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A common virus is killing people in the metro. The flu or flu-related illnesses have now killed five people here. There is also one death where the pending cause may also be flu-related, but that has yet to be confirmed.
No children in the metro have died from flu-related illnesses so far this year, but two doctors at two different area hospitals say this flu season is proving to be alarming.
"This particular flu season is proving devastating for adults between the ages of 20-50," said Dr. Mary Anne Jackson, the Division Director of Infectious Diseases at Children's Mercy Hospital.
Dr. Lee Norman, Chief Medical Doctor at the University of Kansas Hospital, also says of this years flu season has been dangerous.
"This is very serious and life threatening," Dr. Norman said.
Those usually considered low-risk, young and relatively healthy adults, are being hit hard, mostly by the H1N1 virus according to Dr. Norman.
"In 30 plus years of practice I think these are the worst two years I've ever seen," he said.
Dr. Jackson agreed.
"Absolutely worse than previous years that I've seen," she said.
At least five people between 20 and 50 years old have died from the flu or flu-related illness according to Dr. Jackson.
Many others with the influenza A virus remain in intensive care units, including a young mother at the University of Kansas Hospital who delivered a healthy newborn baby while in ICU.
"She's not really okay. She's been on that advanced treatment called ECMO, which there's only a few of those devices in Kansas City, and she's chugging along but she's struggling," Dr. Norman said.
"These are the parents of our patients," said Dr. Jackson.
Children are not immune. Dr. Jackson says at Children's Mercy Hospital, they've detected influenza in over 1,000 children since the season started about seven weeks ago. She said that is just the tip of the iceberg.
"We do not believe we are at the peak of disease yet, despite the fact that over the last week or so, and this had been reported by the CDC also, there's been a little step down in the number of cases that have been reported," Dr. Jackson said.
Both physicians say most of those being treated in hospitals during this severe flu season have one thing in common.
"The one commonality is that most of them are not immunized. Matter of fact, I don't know if any of the critically ill ones that we've seen have had their immunization," Dr. Norman said.
Doctors say even if you've already been sick, if you haven't gotten a flu shot, it is absolutely the most effective way to keep yourself healthy.