WILKES-BARRE TOWNSHIP, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Influenza is something no one ever wants especially during the busy holiday season. But the flu is rearing its ugly head with diagnosed cases in most of Pennsylvania.
So far, the CDC shows 14 states with moderate to high flu activity. Pennsylvania isn’t one of them but health officials say don’t be fooled into a false sense of security. As Eyewitness News Healthbeat Reporter Mark Hiller explains, you need to take steps now to prevent or lessen the effect of flu.
Sick people sneezing sure doesn’t look like the most wonderful time of the year. But it’s what the holiday season may look like if the flu pays you a visit.
“We are holding our breath waiting for our influx of flu patients. It is the time of year where you start to see that,” said MedExpress Urgent Care Physician Assistant Elizabeth Hreha, PA-C at the company’s Wilkes-Barre Township location.
So far this season, the MedExpress Urgent Care where Ms. Hreha works has treated only isolated cases of the flu. Pennsylvania currently has minimal flu activity since flu season started two months ago although there are more confirmed cases to date across the Commonwealth compared to last flu season.
Ms. Hreha said, “Some seasons, the flu strains come through a little earlier, some seasons they come through a little later.”
With Christmas and New Year’s just around the corner, the number of flu cases is expected to jump. High traffic areas like shopping malls and holiday parties and crowded spaces like airports and planes can put you at risk.
Ms. Hreha said, “People can cough and sneeze in an area and someone else can walk through just a few minutes later and actually contract flu through their mucous membranes including the conjunctiva of the eye.”
Ms. Hreha considers the best line of defense the flu vaccine.
“They put four strains of the flu that they anticipate will hit the area for this year.”
Those four strains are considered the most likely ones that can make you very ill this flu season. It’s why health experts urge you to consider giving your immune system the most important gift of all this holiday season.
“So you have that protection as long as you get immunized as soon as you can,” said Ms. Hreha.
It takes two weeks for your immune system to begin reaping the benefits of the flu vaccine. Besides getting a flu shot, you’re also urged to avoid hand contact with your eyes, nose, and mouth and wash and sanitize your hands frequently.
You just don’t know who last touched that doorknob, handrail or gas pump handle.