20412 DOH Flu Season

Registered nurse Brenda Shobert administers a COVID-19 vaccine during a state Department of Health press conference Thursday in the Montgomery County Human Services Center in Norristown. State health officials warn that cases of influenza are increasing in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania Department of Health officials say there is an increase in flu cases across the state and encouraged residents to get a flu vaccine as soon as possible.

“With the growing number of flu cases amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, we want to remind Pennsylvanians to take preventative measures, including getting a flu vaccine to protect themselves, their family and communities from the flu this season,” Pennsylvania’s physician general, Dr. Denise Johnson, said Thursday.

“If you do become sick with the flu, it is imperative that you stay home. If you are at risk for developing serious complications from the flu, or feel extremely ill, you should see a medical professional immediately to determine your need for testing or isolation,” she added.

Flu activity is high across the commonwealth, the DOH reported. Influenza A and B have been identified by laboratory testing. As of earlier this week, there have been 28,475 lab-confirmed cases.

From Oct. 3 to Jan. 15, in McKean County, there were 28 cases of Influenza A and one case of Influenza B; in Elk County, 131 cases of Influenza A and one of Influenza B; and in Potter County, 34 cases of Influenza A and 7 cases of Influenza B.

Influenza-Like Illness (ILI), experiencing symptoms of fever and cough or sore throat, has increased slightly since last week. While flu seasons vary and more people are getting tested more frequently as COVID-19 symptoms can be like flu symptoms, this week’s report is higher than this same week last year and even higher when compared to this same week in 2019.

Symptoms of the flu are fever, chills, muscle aches, cough, congestion, runny nose, headaches and fatigue.

Symptoms of the omicron variant are runny nose, headache, fatigue, sneezing, sore throat, persistent cough, hoarse voice, chills, fever, dizziness, brain fog, muscle pains, loss of smell and chest pain.

The DOH said that at this time, the number of flu cases is still below the state epidemic threshold. There have been 16 deaths reported in Pennsylvania during the current flu season thus far.

“It is not too late to get your flu vaccine if you have not already done so,” Ray Barishansky, deputy secretary of health preparedness and community protection, said.

“We know that people who get the flu after being vaccinated have less severe symptoms and are not sick for as long as those who do not get vaccinated,” he said. “We also know that the COVID-19 vaccines do not protect you from getting the flu. So, while we have been encouraging everyone to get COVID-19 vaccines, you still also need to get your flu vaccine.”

The flu vaccine is available as an injection for anyone six months or older and as an injection or nasal spray for anyone 2 or older. Flu vaccines are available at doctors’ offices, pharmacies, local walk-in clinics or grocery stores. COVID-19 and flu vaccines can be received at the same time.

The DOH stresses the importance of, in addition to getting vaccinated, practicing healthy habits such as covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, frequently washing your hands and remembering to disinfect commonly touched objects, including doorknobs, light switches, countertops, cell phones and computers.

The department said residents can also take advantage of the COVID Alert PA app to monitor your flu and COVID-19 symptoms since they are similar.

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