Reports of a flu epidemic in Berrien County quickly panicked many residents, and with 11 deaths in two weeks you can see why, but hospital administrators and public health officials say the flu is not to blame.

Dr. Lynne Feldman, District Health Director, says, "We've discovered there were 11 deaths in Berrien County between the period of February 10th and February 25th. However, only two of those actually had the flu at all."

Health officials added both of those individuals had extensive chronic illnesses. Another important fact hospital administrators want folks to keep in mind is that all 11 deaths occurred in patients who were 76 to 93 years old.

Geneine Godfrey, district epidemiologist, says, "If there is a cluster, hospitals do report things that are out of the norm to us, but once again we're looking at an elderly population, and it's flu season. The hospital didn't consider this to be anything out of the ordinary."

That was the same conclusion public health officials reached after an extensive investigation, and despite the concerns, hospital administrators say they are working hard to keep local flu numbers minimal.

Darren Pearce, a Berrien County hospital administrator, says, "You know we encourage our staff to practice good hand washing, wear masks if they go in a room and limit the number of visitors that do go in rooms."

They are all important steps that should help keep folks panic-free for the rest of the flu season.