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Dept. of Health provides flu season update

Pennsylvania Department of Health officials have provided an update on the 2021-22 flu season and encouraged Pennsylvanians to get a flu vaccine as soon as possible.

“With the growing number of flu cases amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, we want to remind Pennsylvanians to take preventative measures, including getting a flu vaccine to protect themselves, their family and communities from the flu this season,” Pennsylvania Physician General Dr. Denise Johnson said. “If you do become sick with the flu, it is imperative that you stay home. If you are at risk for developing serious complications from the flu, or feel extremely ill, you should see a medical professional immediately to determine your need for testing or isolation.”

Flu activity is high across the commonwealth. As of Jan. 18, there have been 28,475 laboratory-confirmed flu cases. There are flu cases in all 67 counties. Influenza A and B have been identified by laboratory testing. Influenza-Like Illness (ILI), experiencing symptoms of fever and cough or sore throat, has increased slightly since last week. While flu seasons vary and more people are getting tested more frequently, as COVID-19 symptoms can be like flu symptoms, this week’s report is higher than this same week last year and even higher when compared to this same week in 2019. At this time, it is still below the state epidemic threshold. There have been 16 deaths reported in Pennsylvania during the current flu season thus far.

“It is not too late to get your flu vaccine if you have not already done so,” Deputy Secretary of Health Preparedness and Community Protection Ray Barishansky said. “We know that people who get the flu after being vaccinated have less severe symptoms and are not sick for as long as those who do not get vaccinated. We also know that the COVID-19 vaccines do not protect you from getting the flu. So, while we have been encouraging everyone to get COVID-19 vaccines, you still also need to get your flu vaccine.”

The flu vaccine is available as an injection for anyone six months or older and as an injection or nasal spray for anyone two or older. Flu vaccines are available at your doctor’s office, pharmacy, local walk-in clinic or grocery store. COVID-19 and flu vaccines can be received at the same time.

It is extremely important that in addition to getting vaccinated, Pennsylvanians should practice healthy habits, such as covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, frequently washing your hands, and remembering to disinfect commonly touched objects, including doorknobs, light switches, countertops, cell phones and computers. You can also take advantage of the COVID Alert PA app to monitor your flu and COVID-19 symptoms, since they are similar.

Additional information on how to stay healthy and prevent the spread of flu and COVID-19 can be found on the Department of Health’s website, Facebook, and Twitter pages.

Contributed article