Deputy Secretary of Health Preparedness and Community Protection Ray Barishansky provided an update on flu season and urged Pennsylvanians to get their flu vaccine as the flu season intensifies.
“We are entering the heart of flu season and are just a couple months away from being a year into the COVID-19 pandemic,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. “Since COVID-19 and the flu have similar symptoms, I encourage you to monitor your health by tracking your symptoms daily in the ‘check-in’ feature in the COVID Alert PA app. Finally, continue wearing a mask, washing your hands, social distancing, and following all of the mitigation efforts in place. Let’s all do our part to stop the spread of COVID-19 and the flu.”
Flu activity is currently low across the commonwealth. As of January 2, there have been 1,323 laboratory-confirmed flu cases and seven flu-associated deaths statewide. There are flu cases in 51 of the 67 counties. Influenza A and B have been identified by laboratory testing. The percent of outpatient visits associated with Influenza-Like Illness (ILI) has been low and is still below the state epidemic threshold. A total of 18 influenza associated hospitalizations have been reported in Pennsylvania during the current flu season. The full flu report can be found on the 2020-2021 flu season webpage, here.
The department’s epidemiologists continue to monitor flu activity. A multidisciplinary working group comprised of internal and external partners is prepared to quickly respond to increased flu activity over the upcoming winter months.
“COVID-19 hospitalizations are at an all-time high and we cannot afford to have a flu epidemic in Pennsylvania at the same time as this global pandemic,” Deputy Secretary of Health Preparedness and Community Protection Ray Barishansky said. “If you have not already gotten your flu vaccine this season, please start the new year off by doing so. We know that people who get the flu after being vaccinated have a less severe case and are not sick for as long as those who do not get vaccinated. Keeping Pennsylvanians safe and healthy remains our number one concern.”
The flu vaccines are available as a shot for anyone 6 months or older and as a shot or nasal spray for anyone age 2 or older. Flu vaccines are available at your doctor’s office, pharmacy, local clinics or grocery store. A list of upcoming flu clinics can be found here.
Flu is a contagious disease caused by the influenza virus. It attacks the nose, throat and lungs and may include the following symptoms:
- Dry cough;
- Sore throat;
- Nasal congestion; and
- Body aches.
In addition to getting vaccinated, Pennsylvanians are encouraged to 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 door knobs, light switches, countertops, cell phones and computers. Furthermore, Pennsylvanians are encouraged to practice COVID-19 safety measures such as wearing a mask, social distancing, avoiding small and large gatherings and downloading the COVID Alert PA app.
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.
The Wolf Administration stresses the role Pennsylvanians play in helping to reduce the spread of the flu and COVID-19:
- Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
- Cover any coughs or sneezes with your elbow, not your hands.
- Clean surfaces frequently.
- Stay home to avoid spreading COVID-19, especially if you are unwell.
- If you must go out, you are required to wear a mask when in a business or where it is difficult to maintain proper social distancing.
- Download the COVID Alert PA app and make your phone part of the fight. The free app can be found in the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store by searching for “covid alert pa”.