Reporting Dr. Maria Simbra
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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Allegheny County is off to a head start with this year’s flu season.
“Sometimes we get false starts, but it does look like we definitely have flu in the region,” says Dr. Ronald Voorhees of the Allegheny County Health Department.
At this specific week of the year, the expected number of cases is three or four. The state Department of Health says we’ve had nine.
And for all of October and November, Allegheny County is far ahead in flu cases: 32. Compared to Franklin County with 20, and Montgomery County with 15.
While the CDC’s latest map puts Pennsylvania in the “sporadic” category, Google Flu Trends says the state is actually “moderate.” It tracks query patterns, and correlates pretty well with the actual flu.
Of course, some people search about flu because of hype and buzz, so to factor this out, this program looks at something different, updated daily.
“We actually put more stock in looking at flu-like illnesses that people come into emergency rooms – fever, plus either cough or sore throat,” says Dr. Voorhees. “We had a spike yesterday.”
With the upcoming holidays, more people can become infected.
“As people are mixing, makes it a very convenient time for influenza to spread,” Dr. Voorhees cautions.
What does this mean for the rest of flu season?
“It’s really too soon to tell what the season will be like. Whether it will be severe or not. A lot of that depends on how many people get vaccinated,” he says.
Good news for those who have been vaccinated: the CDC says the circulating strains are a good match to the vaccine.
“If anybody hasn’t gotten their flu shot, it’s a good time to get it,” urges Dr. Voorhees.
The last time the flu was early and deadly was the winter of 2003-2004. That year the vaccine was not a good match to the virus.