Flu case numbers edge upward

Influenza cases reported to the state Department of Health are on the rise.

For the week ending Dec. 18, according to the state, Clarion County had reported 21 cases of “flu” this season. That is an increase of seven reported cases from the previous week.

According to the state, for the week ending Dec. 18, Venango County reported 22 cases of the flu, up from 17 the previous week; Jefferson County reported 72 cases, which is an increase of 44 cases from the previous week.

Forest County had zero to less than four cases, as numbers are not reported until a figure is reached that protects patient confidentially.

Around the state

Centre County remained the influenza “hot spot” last week, with 1,146 reported cases this season, according to the Department of Health.

Statewide, there have been 12,950 reported cases of the flu, the state said. That number is up about 4,500 from the previous week.

Emergency department visits associated with influenza-like illness have increased slightly than last week and higher than the same week last year, according to state figures. Nine confirmed influenza-associated deaths have been reported this season.

The Department of Health reminds people the case counts represent only a fraction of the actual burden of illness due to influenza occurring in the commonwealth at any given time. That’s because most people with influenza don’t go to a doctor, aren’t tested, or report their illness.

It’s estimated 5% to 20% (600,000 to 2,400,000) of Pennsylvanians get the flu each year, and 120 to 2,000 die from complications of influenza, according to the state.

Strains of flu

The Department of Health tracks both Type A and Type B strains of influenza. Type A accounted for 12 cases so far this season; Type B registered nine cases.

According to information provided by webmd.com, “Type A flu or influenza A viruses are capable of infecting animals, although it is more common for people to suffer the ailments associated with this type of flu. Wild birds commonly act as the hosts for this flu virus.

“Type A flu virus is constantly changing and is generally responsible for the large flu epidemics. The influenza A2 virus (and other variants of influenza) is spread by people who are already infected,” according to the website.

“The most common flu hot spots are those surfaces that an infected person has touched and rooms where they have been recently, especially areas where they have been sneezing.”

Type B influenza, according to webmd.com, “is found only in humans. Type B flu may cause a less severe reaction than Type A flu virus, but occasionally, Type B flu can still be extremely harmful. Influenza Type B viruses are not classified by subtype and do not cause pandemics.”

According to the Department of Health, complications of flu can include pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections, dehydration, and worsening of chronic medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure, asthma, or diabetes.