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4 more die of flu complications in Allegheny County, bringing total to 25

| Tuesday, March 13, 2018, 11:57 a.m.
Allegheny County Health Department pharmacy chief Nancy Caracciolo shows off the flu vaccine Friday September 7, 2012 inside a cooler in the department's facility in Lawrenceville.
James Knox  |   Tribune-Review
Allegheny County Health Department pharmacy chief Nancy Caracciolo shows off the flu vaccine Friday September 7, 2012 inside a cooler in the department's facility in Lawrenceville. James Knox | Tribune-Review

Flu-related complications claimed the lives of four more Allegheny County residents, the county Health Department said Tuesday.

So far this flu season, 25 Allegheny County residents died of flu-complications, the health department said. This is more than triple the eight deaths from flu complications at this time last year.

Officials said three of the people who died were females. One was in her late 80s, one in her mid 80s and one in her mid 60s. The male decedent was in his early 90s. It is not known whether they had underlying medical conditions.

This year's flu season has been particularly brutal because of a dominant strain known as H3N2. Flu vaccines are effective about 50 percent of the time. Experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have said this year's vaccine is only about 36 percent effective.

Through March 10, county health officials said there have been 10,137 cases of the flu and 663 hospitalizations. By comparison, there were 4,292 cases of flu and 353 hospitalizations at this time last year. Flu season usually begins the first week in October and ends in May.

Dr. Marc Itskowitz, an infectious disease doctor at Allegheny General Hospital, said he wasn't surprised that flu-related deaths have tripled this year.

"We tend to see the more severe illness in elderly patients," Itskowitz said. "This has been the worst flu season in a decade."

Between Oct. 1, and March 10, there have been 98,097 cases of flu reported in Pennsylvania, according to the state Department of Health. More than 10,000 of those cases – 10,239 – have been reported in Allegheny County, the highest in the state. Westmoreland County has had 2,897 flu cases, while Washington County has had 2,044 and Butler has had 1,173.

Of the 188 flu deaths statewide this season, 147 were 65 or older; 29 were between the ages of 50 and 64, six between 19 and 49 and six were 18 and younger.

In Allegheny County, the ages of those killed by flu complications ranged from a woman in her early 30s to three people in their early 90s.

In Westmoreland County, Kyler Baughman, a seemingly healthy 21-year-old man from Latrobe, died of flu-related complications Dec. 28.

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