As Flu Cases Increase in PA, Physicians Remind Patients Vaccination Is Key

Since the end of November, there have been approximately 677 cases of the flu reported for the 2014-2015 flu season, which typically runs late September through May, generally peaking in late January through early March in Pennsylvania.

The state Department of Health estimates that 600,000 to 2.4 million Pennsylvanians get the flu each year, and between 120 and 2,000 people die from flu-related complications.

“The vaccination rate has a lot to do with it,” said Thomas Weida, MD, a family physician with Penn State Hershey Medical Group and a Pennsylvania Medical Society (PAMED) board member, in a recent article.

Though according to recent media reports the potential exists for a bad flu season since this year’s vaccine isn’t fully effective as a predominant strain — H3N2 — has mutated, that doesn’t mean patients shouldn’t still get vaccinated.

“That’s not an excuse not to get vaccinated though, said Dr. Weida. “If you do get the flu and you have had the shot, you are likely to have a milder reaction to it.”

As physicians know, you can still get the flu even if you have been vaccinated, primarily because the vaccine is formulated early in the year based on early predictions of what strains will circulate so that manufacturers have time to produce the vaccine.

In addition to getting vaccinated, remind your patients that frequent hand washing is key to prevent catching or spreading the flu.