Allegheny County certainly isn't immune from the widespead outbreak of influenza reported by the Pennsylvania Health Department and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Allegheny County Health Department reports four local deaths in the last few weeks have been attributed to the influenza Type A virus. All four deaths have been patients 65 years or older, with the oldest victim 98 years old, according to Dr. Jim Lando, acting director of the department's Office of Epidemiology and Biostatistics.
"Influenza does take people each year," he said. "That's why we do recommend that people get vaccinated."
Lando said that between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31, 2012—the most up-to-date reporting period this flu season—there had been 215 confirmed cases of influenza in the county. During the last week of December, the state health department reports that almost 10 percent of all doctor visits were due to influenza and that 3,193 flu cases were reported statewide.
"We are definitely seeing an increase in influenza-type illnesses," Lando said, noting the cases already are more than are usually reported by late January/early February. "It's a month and a half earlier than we normally see it."
In years when a vaccine shortage is reported, people seem to be more dilgent about being immunized, Lando said. This year, the vaccine is readily available, yet a lot of people have put off being immunized. Generally, it takes about two weeks after getting the vaccine to build up enough antibodies to ward off a bad case of the flu.
"My message to people is that if they haven't been vaccinated, they should do it before the vaccine runs out," Lando said. "It's not too late. If you get the influenza and you've been immunized, you'll have a more mild case. The vast majority of people who are healthy can weather influenza."
But more vulnerable people—the elderly, the frail, those with chronic disease and pregnant women—should be vigilant if symptoms, such as a persistent cough, get worse. Because the flu lowers the body's defenses, people often die of bacterial pneumonia that results from the infection.
Flu shots are available in the North Allegheny suburbs at many locations, including:
- CVS Pharmacy, 11240 Perry Highway, Wexford
To find more flu shot locations, click on this link.
The Allegheny County health department also offers flu shots at its walk-in clinic at 3441 Forbes Avenue in Oakland.
No Appointment necessary:
• Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, 9:00a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
• Wednesdays, 1:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
The Health Department’s walk-in clinic provides flu shots as a covered benefit to people with Medicare Part B who are not in an HMO and may get vaccine from any Medicare-approved provider.
The charge is $25 for others, including Medicare Part B subscribers in an HMO who are restricted to getting flu shots as a covered benefit only from their primary care provider.
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