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Update: Active flu season expected for midstate

Written by Craig Layne, Morning Edition Host/Reporter | Jan 10, 2013 11:37 AM
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(Harrisburg) -- More than 2,600 cases of the flu have been reported so far in central Pennsylvania in what is expected to be a very active flu season.

The state Health Department reports 22 Pennsylvanians have died from the flu since October.

Two were elderly people from Lancaster County.

Speaking on witf's Radio SmartTalk, Dr. John Goldman, a PinnacleHealth infectious disease specialist, says people should not take the illness lightly.

"Many people who get the flu don't just get a benign illness. They don't just get sick for a couple of days," Goldman explains. "Especially people who are younger, less than two, older than 65, or have a problem with their heart or lungs, often end up having a complication, end up in the hospital. So, we're seeing more hospital admissions and even more deaths from the flu."

Goldman says pregnant women are also at a higher risk of coming down with the disease.

He says the flu shot is the best way to protect against the illness, and it's not too late to get the immunization.

Reading Hospital has launched a special flu clinic to take pressure off its emergency room, while York Hospital is adding beds to increase its ability to care for people with flu symptoms.

Some 11,000 Pennsylvania cases of influenza have been reported so far -- a majority of them being the potent H3N2 strain.

Update 1/11/13 10:52 a.m.: 

Franklin County-based Summit Health reports 10 percent of visits to Chambersburg Hospital and Waynesboro Hospital emergency departments are for influenza-like symptoms.

In addition to recommending flu shots, the non-profit offered these tips to slow the spread of the flu: 

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water or alcohol-based hand cleaners, especially after you cough or sneeze.
  • Make sure you cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then throw the tissue away. 
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth because germs can spread that way.
  • Avoid close contact with sick people. If you get sick with the flu, limit contact with others. This means staying home from work or school to avoid infecting others.

It also offered these signs and symptoms of the illness: 

Children:

  • Fast breathing or trouble breathing
  • Bluish skin color
  • Not drinking enough fluids
  • Not waking up or not interacting
  • Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
  • Fever with a rash
  • Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with a fever and worse cough

Adults:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
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