State and federal health officials say this flu season is off to an early start with many more Pennsylvania cases reported for the last week of November 2012 than in 2011. The CDC reports that already, two children have died from the illness this season.
An article in the Pittsburgh Tribune reports, "During the last week of November 2011, there were nine confirmed cases of the flu in Pennsylvania compared to 76 cases during the same period this year," said Holli Senior, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Health. Influenza has been reported in 41 of 67 counties."
According to the state Department of Health, there were 214 cases of confirmed influenza across the state from Oct. 4 - Nov. 24 this year. Seven of those cases were in the Lehigh County, six were from Northampton County and 15 from Montgomery County. Allegheny County had the most with 32 cases.
The CDC reports that the 2012-2013 season is shaping up to be one of the worst flu seasons in a while, officials from the CDC said in a teleconference Monday. There have been a larger number of suspected flu cases than usual in five Southern states, and this year's strain may be more virulent.
A similar flu virus struck during the 2003-2004 season, killing more than 48,000 people in one of the most lethal seasons in the past 35 years. Nevertheless, this year's vaccination appears to be better matched to the virus.
an A/California/7/2009 (H1N1)-like virus.
an A/Victoria/361/2011 (H3N2)-like virus.
a B/Wisconsin/1/2010-like virus.
To find a place near you to get a flu shot, type your zip code into the Flu Finder site.
Basic Facts about the Flu
What is the flu (influenza)?
Influenza is a virus. There are three types of influenza viruses (A, B, and C). Influenza types A and B cause respiratory illnesses.
What are the symptoms and how soon do they occur after exposure to an ill person?
Illness will usually begin very suddenly 1-5 days after exposure and commonly lasts for 2-7 days. Symptoms usually include fever, cough, headache, muscle aches and fatigue.
When does influenza occur?
Influenza occurs in the late fall and winter in the United States.
Who can get influenza?
Anyone. Persons at highest risk for severe illness are the elderly, the very young, pregnant women, and those with chronic medical problems such as heart or lung conditions, diabetes or trouble with their immune system.
How is influenza spread?
Influenza is spread by air droplets from an ill person to other people, generally by coughing and sneezing.
Can you get influenza from domestic pets and animals?
Animals such as pigs, horses and birds can become ill with their own influenza viruses. Pigs have spread their influenza viruses (known as "swine flu") to people.
Is there a treatment for influenza?
Persons with influenza should rest and drink lots of fluids. Early treatment with antiviral medications may be helpful. This is not a replacement for the influenza vaccine.
Can you get influenza more than once?
Yes. More than one type of influenza can go around each winter so people can get the flu more than once a year. People will usually get influenza many times in their life.
Is there a vaccine for influenza?
Yes. Different strains of influenza circulate at different times. A new vaccine is issued each flu season. People who need the vaccine should be vaccinated every year. People who are at risk for getting a serious case of influenza or a complication should get the vaccine. The vaccine may not prevent someone from getting the flu, but it can lessen the severity of symptoms. It takes about 2 weeks to build up antibodies after receiving the vaccine.
How can you prevent the spread of influenza?
Persons who are ill with fever and cough should stay home. They should not go to school or work. They could easily spread the disease to other people. People should cover their mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing. A safe and effective vaccine is available, especially for persons at high risk (listed above) or anyone wishing to avoid influenza. Because the virus may change slightly from year to year the vaccine is changed each year and should be received each influenza season.