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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Local health officials say the number of flu cases has spiked in recent days, and this could be just the beginning.

Dr. Charles Feronti, works in the Emergency Room at Allegheny General Hospital. He says if you’ve been bitten by the flu bug, you have lots of company.

“We’re seeing a pretty good mix of the young and the elderly, groups especially vulnerable to the flu, but we’re also seeing healthy people, without any previous medical condition, so it definitely effects all ages,” Dr. Feronti said.

The flu is not something to be taken lightly. Symptoms are similar to those of the common cold, but are usually more severe.

And, like a cold, the flu is contagious, and it lasts longer.

Dr. Karen Hacker, the Allegheny County Health Director, said, “We’ve just seen a very large increase this past week in terms of flu cases that we wanted people to be aware of. We had been in the beginning of the season up until now; then, this past week, this dramatic increase.”

The Pennsylvania Department of Health says the level of statewide flu activity is considered widespread, and Allegheny County right now has the most flu cases that have been reported so far this season.

“We have had 1,319 flu cases as of Jan. 3,” said Dr. Hacker. “Last year, as of Jan. 4t, we only had 920 cases.”

Medical experts says it’s not too late to get a flu shot. And, if you feel sick, you should remain at home, to avoid infecting others.

According to Dr. Feronti, “We tell people for the most part, if you’re sick, stay at home. For the most part, as miserable as the flu is, it is a self-limiting illness, meaning it usually gets better on its own.”

And what about this current frigid weather? What effect could it have on the flu season?

“One of the things that happens in cold weather – people are together in small a space, that may be one of the reasons we see the flu increase in cold weather,” Dr. Hacker said.

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