Flu shows no sign of slowing down after a fast start in Pennsylvania.
“This so far is one of the worst seasons in recent memory … It started early, it started strong,” said Dr. John Goldman, an infectious disease specialist at UPMC Pinnacle.
Seasons that start early typically last longer, Goldman noted.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health counted about 7,000 more flu cases during the week that ended Saturday than during the previous week, according to figures released Tuesday.
The department also received reports of four more flu-related deaths, raising the total to 13 for the season. The flu is further blamed for 477 people being hospitalized so far.
For the flu season that began in late October, the department has counted 25,362 lab-confirmed cases, with people getting sick all over the state.
The true number of people stricken with flu is much higher since most people with the flu aren’t tested.
The flu is hitting hard all over the country, with Pennsylvania among 34 states, along with the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, seeing high levels of the flu.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, told CNN the season is on track to be as bad as 2017-2018, one of the worst in many years.
In Pennsylvania, the flu typically peaks in January or February and drops off sharply. Pennsylvania’s flu season officially runs from late October until mid-May.
The good news is that the two flu strains showing up most often in Pennsylvania tend to cause fewer hospitalizations and deaths, Goldman said. The bad news is that, while flu generally takes its heaviest toll among older people, these two strains are unusually hard on young people, according to Goldman.
Pennsylvania’s 13 deaths include no one under 18. Ten of the people who died were 65 or older.
Common flu symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, sore throat, coughing, congestion and body aches.
Contrary to common belief, the flu doesn’t cause vomiting and gastrointestinal symptoms, with those things commonly caused by viruses or other ailments.
While the flu itself isn’t considered fatal, it commonly causes things such as pneumonia or other infections which lead to death.
Doctors say the best protection is flu vaccine, which is recommended for people six months and older.
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