With Severe Influenza Season, Health Officials Advise Getting Flu Shot

Phillip Cunningham
January 25, 2018

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Flu cases in Pennsylvania continued to increase last week, as about 6,500 positive reports came in from across the state.That figure is about 300 ahead of the previous week, according to the state Health Department's weekly flu report. To find a place to get a flu shot, visit vaccinefinder.org.

So far this season, Interior Health has seen 637 lab confirmed cases of influenza with more expected. In most cases it resolves in a day or two and generally is not risky except for significant dehydration that can occur in some cases.

Flu viruses are always changing and hard to predict, but doctors say it's not too late to get a flu vaccine.

Michigan, along with 48 other states in the USA, was declared by the Centers for Disease Control to have "Widespread" influenza activity, especially for an aggressive strain known as influenza A H3N2. Under half of all Americans say that they have already received their flu shot (45%) while almost the same amount of people (43%) say they don't plan on getting the shot at all.

It's not too late to get vaccinated. If you think you have influenza and you are an otherwise healthy person, you do not need to rush to the doctor's office. "You shouldn't have to wait to go in to get them". Make patients aware of the importance of antiviral medications to treat flu in people with severe illness and those at high risk. Australia has already been overwhelmed by the potentially deadly H3N2 strain, with 170,000 cases reported this season - that's more than two-and-a-half more than last winter. "Back in 2015, there was a big outbreak involving hundreds of dogs in Chicago and other areas of the Midwest, and a year ago it was diagnosed in some dogs in the southeast that had attended dog shows".

According to the CDC, the proportion of outpatient visits for influenza-like illness at the national level is 5.8 percent, which is above the national baseline of 2.2 percent. Regarding H3N2, scientists believe vaccines may only be 30 percent effective.

"Epidemic is a term used frequently to describe flu season this year, but it's better to describe the flu as widespread this season", said Three Rivers Health District director Dr. Richard Williams. Gastroenteritis is the medical term for what most people call the "stomach flu".

"Get the vaccination, wash your hands with soap and water", Vora said. "Getting the flu vaccine can prevent people from getting sick, or may lessen the severity of symptoms for those who become ill".

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