Pennsylvania has had 22 flu-related deaths so far this season, according to data from the state’s Department of Health. Most of these deaths occurred among people older than 65, but the fatalities included two individuals younger than 50 who were otherwise healthy.
The deaths have included two elderly women in Lancaster County, according to a Health Department spokeswoman.
Officials say the commonwealth has seen more than 11,000 cases of flu already this season. Last season, Pennsylvania logged over 3,000.
“Some things that keep going up eventually will come down, but we don’t know when that’ll occur,” said Dr. Ram Nambiar, acting director for the state’s Bureau of Epidemiology.
Health officials say there’s still time to get a flu shot. This season’s shot matches the strain of flu that’s causing so many problems. That strain is known as Influenza A/H3N2.
“The numbers have been extraordinarily high,” said Dr. Nirmal Joshi, Chief Medical Officer at Harrisburg Hospital.
Joshi said the last time doctors saw a season this busy was in 2005-2006
The hospital’s taken several steps to handle the particularly strong flu season. Masks are available to everyone who comes to the emergency department. The hospital has staffing plans in place to adjust in the event even more patients come in or staff members themselves come down with the flu.
“What perpetuates the issue a little bit is that the staff themselves tend to be like regular patients too. They also get sick. So, that impacts things a little bit. But, we have not been in a situation where we have not had enough staff. We’ve had adequate staff to care for all the patients who come to us,” said Joshi.
Joshi said the hospital has two trailers on standby to come to the hospital and provide extra space to see patients should the need arise.
He said the only change affecting visitation is that only immediate family are allowed to visit kids under five.
That’s one group typically impacted more strongly by the flu. This year’s strain is particularly hitting seniors. Health officials also encourage people with existing chronic health conditions to take proper precautions as well to try to prevent catching the flu.