We are in the middle of one of the worst flu outbreaks in recent history and it just keeps getting worse. Last year was the worst flu season since 2007, but this year isn’t over yet and the flu is spreading faster than anyone predicted. There were almost 3,000 new lab-confirmed cases in the state last week alone (see below). The cold weather seems to be to blame for the rapid increase.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health released new numbers that show more than 8,000 cases reported in the state from the end of September through January 18th, enough for the state to classify the flu as "widespread." And the rate is rapidly rising.
If that number seems low to you, it is. The reason is that lab-confirmed flu cases represent a small fraction of actual flu cases, because most doctors tell their patients they have the flu without lab confirmation. Also, a lot of people don’t go to the doctor at all and just tough it out at home.
Every county in the state has reported at least a handful of cases; many have reported hundreds. Based on county-by-county statistics, one could surmise that the flu is moving across the state from west to east, as the reported incidents are much higher in the western part of the state. Allegheny County has the most lab-confirmed cases with 695. Blair County, also in western Pennsylvania is second with 480.
In our area it looks like this:
Montgomery County 230
Philadelphia County 201
Delaware County 193
Chester County 142
Bucks County 128
For the first time in history, the H1N1 virus or “swine flu,” is the predominant strain, and it can be deadly. So far there have been 23 flu-related deaths in the state. Ten of the victims were between the ages of 50 and 64, but two were between 19 and 24.
If you haven’t got your flu shot, it's not too late. The state Health Department’s web site has a flu vaccine finder where you can get information on where flu shots are available in your neighborhood.
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