New flu cases still rising in area

Cambria only local county seeing smaller increase

A flu-season graph on the state Department of Health website depicting week-to-week numbers of new cases in Pennsylvania rises like a cliff.

A graph representing new cases for each week of every season back to 2009-10 shows this season’s line rising far higher already than the high points of any of the eight previous years’ lines.

And a chart with the number of new cases last week in the six counties of the Mirror coverage area shows a cumulative 21 percent increase from the previous week.

Flu is “widespread” in Pennsylvania overall and in this area specifically, according to the department — which places the statewide situation on the most dire level in its website model.

The numbers of new laboratory-confirmed cases last week are up in five of the six local counties.

Blair’s number was up 39 percent to 308 new cases for the week that ended Saturday, compared to the previous week, which had 221 new cases. The additional cases bring Blair’s total for the season to 787.

Huntingdon’s number of new cases for the week that ended Saturday was up 129 percent, to 126 from 55 the previous week — giving the county a season total of 328.

Centre’s number of new cases was up 49 percent to 380 from 254 the previous week, bringing the season total to 1,068. That is more than the 998 confirmed flu cases in Centre County for all of last year’s flu season, statistics on the state Health Department’s website show.

Bedford saw a 41 percent jump in new cases to 61 for last week, bringing the season total to 156.

Clearfield was up 23 percent to 128, bringing the season total to 499.

Only Cambria’s increase in new cases was down — 47 percent falling from 263 new cases for the week ending Jan. 27 to 138 for last week. Cambria’s season total is 752.

Statewide, the number of new cases last week rose 23 percent, to 12,299, bringing the season total to 47,752.

There were 26 deaths from flu last week statewide — up from 18 the previous week.

There have been 91 deaths statewide so far this season.

Those deaths are skewed to seniors: 69 people 65 or older died, while 15 of those remaining were at least 50, according to the website.

It’s not clear yet whether this season — the season begins in early October and lasts 32 weeks — has reached its peak.

The previous years’ peaks hardly provide a clue, as they have varied from the 13th to the 16th to the 19th to the 21st to the 24th week of other seasons whose numbers are represented on the department website.

Because they represent patients for whom a laboratory test confirmed the flu, the case numbers represent “only a fraction of the actual burden of illness” according to the website.

“This is because most persons with influenza do not go to the doctor or are not tested or reported,” the website states.

From 5 to 20 percent of Pennsylvanians — 200,000 to 2.4 million — contract the flu annually, according to estimates, the website states.

From 120 to 2,000 die from complications of flu, according to estimates, the website states.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.