Phila. Health Department address flu outbreak

January 11, 2013 9:08:52 PM PST
Philadelphia Health Commissioner held a meeting Friday to address the flu outbreak in the area.

According to the commissioner, 281 people have been hospitalized and at least four deaths have been reported in the area due to the flu outbreak.

The commissioner also addressed a rumor.

"There is a rumor circulating that the influenza strains are in some way unusual or not predicted. I want to make sure everyone hears that is not true," says Dr. Donald Schwarz. "We have a vaccine that prevents 98% of the influenza circulating in this community."

Philadelphia Health Commissioner is concerned that the rumor could deter people from getting a flu shot.

The Centers for Disease Control says the flu hit the country hard a month earlier than usual, and is being driven by a strain that tends to make people sicker.

At this point, the flu is labeled widespread, which is the worst of 5 categories, in 47 out of 50 states. But it appears that the virus has already peaked in a number of areas, primarily in the south.

While doctors say the vaccine is perfectly safe and will not make you sick, it is not an iron-clad defense.

Officials say some vaccines do not take or people get the vaccine after being exposed to the virus.

"This is not unexpected. This is not surprising; this is not a bad vaccine. This is what we would expect," said Dr. Schwartz.

At Penn's Emergency Department on New Year's Day, the number of flu like cases rose 19% compared to last year.

The daily number has since fluctuated, but by Wednesday of this week the total was up overall by 9%.

"I think we are entering the peak of influenza season, and that we will see its peak within the next week or two, and then influenza activity will start to trend downward," said Dr. Neil Fishman.

Like many hospitals, Delaware County Memorial in Drexel Hill has ramped up staffing to meet the influx of 10 to 15 more patients a day.

"We started seeing surges of the flu. We started seeing cases of the flu in August which is quite early for the flu," said Dr. Michael Dumin.

Doctors say one reason they are seeing more patients is this flu is lasting a bit longer than past strains.

"Chills, coughing, body aches, and it lasts anywhere between 7 to 10 days and usually tapers off, sometimes it lasts a little longer than that," said Dr. Dumin.

Doctors say if you want to avoid those symptoms, get a flu shot, even at this late date. Medical Professionals are warning people that it is not too late to get immunized.

Health officials say there are some things you can do to protect yourself.

"Five things: get immunized, get immunized, avoid contact, wash hands frequently and make sure there is good mouth to nose care," said Dr. Schwartz.