Ten other adults died of influenza-related illnesses in Pennsylvania in the last week, ending a period that coincides with the peak of the influenza season in the past two years.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health released its weekly report Tuesday reporting the number of influenza cases confirmed in 67 counties until February 16. When a positive laboratory test is reported to the state, it is registered as a confirmed influenza case.
We are almost halfway through the influenza season and the flu claimed the lives of 46 adults and one child. The vast majority of those who have died are 50 or older.
All areas of Pennsylvania reported an increase in influenza activity last week, but the southwestern and northwestern parts of the state were the hardest hit. So far, 37,808 laboratory-confirmed influenza cases have been reported in 67 counties. This represents 7,216 new cases in the last week.
The state continues to see widespread activity exceeding the epidemic threshold. In the past three weeks, the rate of influenza across the country has increased from 194 cases per 100,000 population to 295 per 100,000 for the most recent.
The influenza season officially starts in early October and ends in May, but the disease usually peaks in winter.
Northampton and Lehigh are among the most affected by the flu rate in Pennsylvania.
But nationally, Pennsylvania is doing better than its eastern neighbor, New Jersey, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's weekly flu report. This report is late by one week on reports from the Pa Department of Health.
At present, New Jersey is among the 26 states to consider the highest level of influenza activity; a sharp rise of only six states a few weeks ago. Pennsylvania continues to be considered the most moderate of the week ending Feb. 9, according to the CDC.
When health officials say that the flu is widespread, it means that confirmed outbreaks or an increase in confirmed cases of influenza are found in at least half of the state's regions. This is not an indicator of gravity.
Mapping the flu
We analyzed available data from the Ministry of Health on confirmed influenza cases to determine which of the 67 counties in Pennsylvania had been the hardest hit this flu season.
The data cover the beginning of the influenza season from October until 16 February.
Click or tap a country to view the total number of influenza cases and its influenza rate per 100,000 population.
It is estimated that 5-20% of Pennsylvanians – 600,000 to 2.4 million people – get the flu each year and 120 to 2,000 die from complications related to influenza.
Here are the 15 counties in Pennsylvania hardest hit:
The influenza rate in the state was 295 cases per 100,000 population.
- 15. Lycoming County Influenza rate: 507 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. Total cases: 590
- 14. Lehigh County Influenza rate: 527 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. Total cases: 1,891
- 13. Luzerne County Influenza rate: 533 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. Total cases: 1,701
- 12. McKean County Influenza rate: 535 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. Total cases: 228
- 11. Huntingdon County Influenza rate: 539 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. Total cases: 247
- 10. Bradford County Influenza rate: 550 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. Total cases: 340
- 9. Northampton County Influenza rate: 623 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. Total cases: 1,871
- 8. Crawford County Influenza rate: 653 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. Total Cases: 568
- 7. Wayne County Influenza rate: 690 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. Total cases: 354
- 6. Clearfield County Influenza rate: 791 per 100,000 inhabitants. Total cases: 642
- 5. Jefferson County Influenza rate: 810 per 100,000 inhabitants. Total cases: 361
- 4. Fulton County Influenza rate: 826 per 100,000 inhabitants. Total cases: 121
- 3. Potter County Influenza rate: 841 per 100,000 inhabitants. Total cases: 145
- 2. Elk County Influenza rate: 865 per 100,000 inhabitants. Total cases: 269
- 1. Cameron County Influenza rate: 1,373 per 100,000 inhabitants. Total cases: 66
Is it too late to get the flu shot?
It's never too late to get a flu shot, and if you have not, you should do it, according to the experts. It's fast too. You can get one at your local pharmacy and come in and out in minutes.
Many believe that the vaccine can catch the flu, but the CDC and all the experts will tell you that it's wrong. Some people may have a mild reaction, but it's not the flu.
Here are some debilitated myths about influenza vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
- Myth: The flu vaccine can give you the flu. (Some people think this because the flu vaccine can give you a minor reaction, in rare cases, some people may develop a life-threatening reaction, according to the CDC.)
- Myth: It is better to be vaccinated than the influenza vaccine. (No. It's certainly not better to get the flu if you can avoid it.)
- Myth: I do not need an influenza vaccine every year. (The influenza vaccine will eventually disappear, so you will need to get one each year.)