Influenza activity has continued to markedly increase in the United States, reaching epidemic levels. Since October 1, 2016, a total of 4,317 laboratory confirmed influenza-related hospitalizations have been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This number represents a rate of 15.4 hospitalizations per 100,000 U.S. residents, which is significantly higher than last year’s rate of 2.5 hospitalizations per 100,000 in the same time frame. A positive factor is that a majority of all the reported flu cases were caused by an influenza type A virus, a strain found in the 2016-2017 vaccine. However, the CDC estimates that as of early November 2016, only two of every five children and adults in the U.S. had received the flu vaccine.
In Pennsylvania, flu activity for this period closely mirrors the national picture. A total of 14,932 laboratory confirmed cases have been reported to the Pennsylvania Department of Health. The southwestern portion of the state has been strongly affected, with the Allegheny County Health Department reporting 1,869 lab confirmed cases, as compared to 62 confirmed cases reported at this time last year.
Flu season generally spreads from November to March. Even though it takes about two weeks for protective antibody levels to fully develop, it is not too late to get a flu shot. It is especially important for those at high risk, such as people with chronic lung conditions, to be vaccinated since they are at greater risk of experiencing serious illness or death as a result of the flu.