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Health

Allegheny County leads state in confirmed flu cases

Bob Bauder
| Friday, Jan. 19, 2018, 5:24 p.m.
Flu season typically runs from early October through May, reports the Centers for Disease Control, which recommends people 6 months and older get annual flu vaccines.
REUTERS
Flu season typically runs from early October through May, reports the Centers for Disease Control, which recommends people 6 months and older get annual flu vaccines.

Allegheny County continues to lead the state in the number of confirmed cases of influenza, with an increase of more than 1,100 over the first two weeks of 2018.

The Allegheny County Health Department reported a total of 2,982 confirmed cases through Jan. 13 — an increase of 1,140 from Jan. 6.

Four people in the county have died from flu-related complications.

For comparison, five people died in the county during the entire last flu season, which generally runs from October to May.

Area hospitals reported that the number of patients seeking treatment for flu-related symptoms has eased, but the total is still up over past years.

“It's sort of leveled off,” said Dr. Tom Campbell, chairman of Emergency Medicine for Allegheny Health Network. “We haven't seen an increase this week over the previous week. We're seeing more patients this year than we have, say, in the past two years, and it's a little earlier this year than in past years.”

Campbell estimated that about 20 percent of emergency room patients this week were treated for flu-like symptoms. The hospitals typically see a total of 800 patients per day.

University of Pittsburgh Medical Center reported the number of confirmed influenza cases has dropped over the past week.

UPMC on Wednesday had a total of 148 patients systemwide test positive for flu, according to spokeswoman Allison Hydzik. There were 172 patients who tested positive on the prior Wednesday.

Region, state and nation hit hard, too

Counties surrounding Allegheny have been hit hard with 965 cases in Westmoreland, 377 in Butler, 773 in Washington and 496 in Beaver.

In Pennsylvania, the state Department of Health has recorded 17,786 confirmed cases and 32 deaths as of Jan. 13.

Flu activity is widespread across the country, too.

“As of the first week in January, every single state in the country had widespread flu activity,” Campbell said. “I haven't seen that in many years.”

Hospitals are mainly seeing a flu strain called H3N2 Type A, a “tricky virus” that can mutate and render vaccine potentially ineffective, according to Campbell.

“We are seeing, though, that people who get the vaccine aren't getting as sick and it isn't lasting that long, so it is worth getting,” he said.

Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-765-2312, bbauder@tribweb.com or on Twitter @bobbauder.

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