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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The CDC has classified flu activity as widespread in Pennsylvania.
But what’s happening in our area? That’s a matter of some debate among those on the front lines.
With spring just around the corner, you’d think flu season would be over, but in our area that’s not what doctors have been seeing.
“We’re hitting our peak in the last two or three weeks,” says Dr. Judith Martin, an infectious diseases specialist at Children’s Hospital.
Dr. Marc Itskowitz, an internist at Allegheny General Hospital, has had a similar experience. “The last two to four weeks we’ve had a lot of patients calling, coming in with flu-like illnesses. It seems like we’re seeing more cases of flu than we have for most of the flu season,” he says.
In fact, 40 percent of the specimens sent to the Children’s Hospital lab are positive for influenza.
But based on the numbers of people with flu-like symptoms coming to emergency departments, the health department will tell you otherwise.
“The worst of the flu season is over,” declares Guillermo Cole, a spokesman for the Allegheny County Health Department.
And the ERs would agree.
“Probably the peak for us was the end of January and through February we’ve seen those numbers decrease a bit,” says Dr. Tom Campbell, an ER physician at Allegheny General Hospital.
Problem is the ER is not the only place people with the flu will go.
“Most patients with the flu don’t go to the emergency department,” Dr. Itskowitz points out. “Either they stay home, they may call their doctor, they may go to a retail express clinic.”
These visits wouldn’t be tracked by the health department.
“We would think the visits to physician offices and those primary care centers are probably we think are going to mirror what we’re seeing in the emergency departments,” says Cole.
“For every case that’s reported, there’s probably a thousand that are not reported,” says Dr. Itskowitz. “So those data that we’re seeing are not necessarily reflective of what’s going on in the community.”
“I don’t anticipate that it’s going to last longer than another week or two,” says Dr. Martin, “and then the numbers are going to taper.”
Because flu season can last until May, it’s not too late to get a flu shot, but it does take a couple weeks to become fully protected. The health department expects to see some flu activity through April.