PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The Allegheny County Health Department says more than 2,000 flu cases have now been reported, as well as three deaths.
The number of cases in Allegheny County is by far the largest in the state.
Here are the reported cases in surrounding counties as of Tuesday:
- Armstrong – 147
- Beaver – 254
- Butler – 667
- Clarion – 87
- Fayette – 591
- Indiana – 109
- Venango – 110
- Washington – 932 (Third highest total in Pennsylvania)
- Westmoreland – 842
In Allegheny County, 362 people have been hospitalized so far as a result of this year's (2014-15) flu. In 2013-14, there were 2,846 cases and 295 hospitalizations for the entire season.
At least three deaths have been tied to influenza.
"We have had three deaths thus far, and it certainly looks like from the information I have that those generally were either elderly people or people who had other types of conditions as well," said Dr. Karen Hacker, of the Allegheny County Health Department.
At Wednesday's Health Department Board meeting, Dr. Hacker warned that this flu season could be worse than flu outbreaks in recent memory.
"At the end of last week, which would have been Jan. 3, we had almost 2,300 cases, I think, of documented flu," Dr. Hacker said. "The general update is that we are definitely seeing the flu go above and beyond what we certainly saw last year. And at this point, it even looks like it might be worse than 2012. So what we want to do is really encourage people to recognize that the flu season is here. If you have not gotten a vaccination, really consider getting one."
The Centers for Disease Control says 43 states, including Pennsylvania, are facing high or widespread flu activity.
The Health Department, as well as other agencies, offer flu shots.
But because there's been concern that the current vaccine isn't as effective against the most prevalent strain of the flu, and that those over 65 are at risk, Dr. Hacker suggests older patients ask their doctors about whether they should consider a high dose shot.
"I believe it is readily available. It's a high dose. It's recommended for people over 65. They need to ask their physicians about getting it," she said.
The government says the vaccine is only about 33 percent effective this year, because the main strain circulating is not a good match to the vaccine.
"It's still worth doing because it's the best way to protect against the flu – 33 percent means that in a third of patients, we can prevent the flu from occurring," said Dr. Marc Itskowtiz with Allegheny Health Network. "It also means that for people that are getting the flu, who've been vaccinated, they may have a chance of having reduced flu activity. And keep in mind also that if protects against other strains that may not be covered, so it is our best weapon against the flu and in addition to good hand hygiene and avoiding people that are sick. We still recommend the flu shot, even in years like this where the vaccine is not as effective."
Doctors also say pay particular attention to hygiene among school-aged children, especially this time of year when they're returning to school from a long holiday vacation.
The Allegheny County Health Department walk-in clinic is located at 3441 Forbes Avenue in Oakland. It is open on Wednesdays from 1 p.m. till 8 p.m., and Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday from 9 a.m. till 4 p.m.
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