PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - The Allegheny County Health Department has reported more than 8,000 flu cases just this season, and it's only December.
In 2021-22 there were 536 cases, 30 in 2020-21 and 565 before that.
Masking and social distancing helped keep some of those numbers low in the past, but with such high numbers this year, KDKA-TV talked to AHN internal medicine specialist Dr. Brian Lamb.
"The number of cases is skyrocketing," Lamb said.
It's been a viral storm, and the flu has been blowing through Pittsburgh and the rest of the country with numbers that haven't been seen in years.
"What we're seeing is just an astronomical number of flu cases compared to what we normally see, the numbers are just skyrocketing and it has all of us worried about what that's going to bring for the winter," he said.
Fortunately, local doctors aren't seeing the rate of hospitalizations or deaths to match that, but they're worried it may just be a matter of time. They say one thing that may be driving the numbers is that they're doing more flu testing.
"People are testing for COVID from home. It's negative, so we know to get the flu test instead. So there may be some bias, but the tests show just much flu is circulating in Allegheny County alone," said Lamb.
Experts say the good news is this year's flu vaccine is effective on the strains that are going around. The bad news: fewer people actually got the shot.
"With all the vaccinations that we've been given, especially with COVID and the boosters, some people have been more reluctant to get their flu shots this year," Lamb said.
The typical flu season is January through March, and people usually get their flu shots October through December. So if you haven't gotten one yet, time is of the essence.
"It's so important that people get their flu shots now, not waiting until your next doctor's appointment or waiting until it's convenient," Lamb said.
To prevent getting sick in the first place, some health experts are actually urging people to mask up again. The CDC is advising people in parts of New York City to wear their masks again.
So what about here in our area?
"If you're going to be in a crowded area, holiday shopping, if you have any condition that puts you at risk, consider wearing your mask," Lamb said. "It will give you that little extra protection that may keep you safe this year."
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