State: Blair has most flu cases
Seventy-nine cases of influenza have been reported between late September and Dec. 21 in Blair County, the most of any county in the state, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
Officials are urging residents across the state to get vaccinated to stay healthy.
For surrounding counties, Bedford had 19 cases; Cambria, 34; Centre, eight; Clearfield, 15; and Huntingdon, 13; through Dec. 21, the latest figures available.
Aimee Tysarczyk, press secretary and communications director for the Department of Health, said 67 of the cases reported in Blair are type A influenza, which is the most severe of the three types of flu. A total of 1,159 cases of the flu have been reported statewide, she said.
Most of the cases in the surrounding counties also were type A.
“It’s important to note that the numbers we report are only a fraction of what is actually circulating for a number of reasons,” Tysarczyk said. “We report lab-confirmed cases, and often times people may not go to the doctor’s [office] when they are sick, and so sometimes a test may not actually be done.”
The Department of Health expects an increase in flu cases across the state, Tysarczyk said, as the illness is currently categorized as “widespread” in Pennsylvania.
The highest of five designations used by the Health Department, a “widespread” rating indicates that reports of “influenza-like illness” and laboratory-confirmed flus were found in at least half of the regions of the state, Tysarczyk said.
The Health Department estimates that between 5 and 20 percent of Pennsylvanians will get the flu each year, leading to between 200 to 2,000 possible deaths annually.
More than 40,000 flu cases were reported statewide last year in an “extremely active” flu season, according to a release from the Health Department, leading to more than 3,500 hospitalizations and more than 200 deaths.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website, people afflicted by the flu virus typically recover in one or two weeks. Symptoms include fever, runny nose, coughing, chills, fatigue, body aches and nausea.
Flu symptoms can be treated with a variety of medicines, and vaccines are made available to prevent people from catching it. The Department of Health offers free flu shot clinics periodically to help accommodate residents.
In Blair County, vaccinations are offered by The Health Department at the Salvation Army Worship and Service Center at 1813 Sixth Ave. in Altoona. Appointments can be made by calling 814-627-1251.
Senior citizens are at high risk for catching the flu, as are children and pregnant women.
“Prevention is the key to keeping older Pennsylvanians healthy,” Brian Duke, Pennsylvania Secretary of Aging, said in the release.
For more information on treating the flu or ways to avoid catching it, visit www.flu.gov.
Mirror Staff Writer Paige Minemyer is at 946-7535.