EAST HEMPFIELD TOWNSHIP, Pa. — The flu is hitting hard around the country, with Pennsylvania among 34 states seeing high infection numbers. The Pennsylvania Department of Health released figures Jan. 7 showing a sharp spike in new cases in the last week of 2019. In Pennsylvania, the flu season usually peaks in January or February.
Flu season started early this year, with confirmed cases of influenza beginning to rise unusually high by October. Pennsylvania’s flu season officially runs from late October until mid-May. So far this flu season there have been more than 25,000 confirmed cases, 477 flu-associated hospitalizations and 13 flu-associated deaths.
The virus is showing no sign of slowing down; nearly 7,000 new cases were reported in the last week of 2019 in Pennsylvania alone.
One urgent care facility in Lancaster County reported seeing 10 to 15 patients a day with flu-like symptoms.
Type A influenza is normally the most prevalent strain early in the flu season, and predominantly affects the very young and the elderly. This year's infections, however, are coming from two strains of the flu: A and B. Type B predominantly affects children and young adults.
Getting the flu shot is the best way to to protect yourself and your family, health officials said.
"If you get the flu vaccine it`s more likely that your flu symptoms are going to be much less and the course of the illness will be much less," said Dr. Vito DiCamillo, urgent care medical director at Lancaster General Urgent Care. "That`s why pretty much everyone in healthcare gets it."
There's still potentially four more months of flu season, so a flu shot is still not superfluous.
"If you have not gotten your flu shot before, it`s absolutely not too late," said Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine. "It`s important to get your flu shot now."
Flu isn't the only illness going around. DiCamillo said Lancaster General Urgent Care is also seeing more cases of strep throat and gastroenteritis.
When in doubt of which illness you have, he advised scheduling an appointment with your family doctor or heading to an urgent care.