PLAINS TOWNSHIP, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — The worldwide coronavirus may be grabbing the health headlines lately but there’s a far greater threat lurking among us.
It is the flu which is now considered widespread in much of the country, including here in Pennsylvania.
48,510. That’s how many cases of the flu were reported in Pennsylvania through last Saturday. And so far, 33 flu-related deaths. Eyewitness News Healthbeat reporter Mark Hiller visited a local urgent care clinic to see what’s behind the numbers.
32-year-old Bill Arthur began feeling ill three days before his urgent care visit.
“Fever, aches, chills. The usual stuff. Groggy, coughing and then a sore throat,” Arthur said.
He wanted a diagnosis and treatment rather than just wait to get better.
“Not with this and especially with everything else that’s been going on with the coronavirus and all that. God forbid I’m one of those people,” Arthur said.
As scary as coronavirus may be, the fact is we’re in the middle of a devastating flu season — one of the worst in decades. The CDC estimates 15 million cases of the flu nationwide with 8,200 deaths.
“We have noticed a very big increase in the number of cases of the flu that have been confirmed especially in our clinic,” said Julia Zafia-Carey, Physician Assistant, Geisinger Careworks.
On average, her clinic has been seeing 50 patients a day who show-up with flu-like symptoms — including some who got their flu shot.
“I would say though that more people that do not get the flu shot are experiencing the flu,” said Zafia-Carey.
Influenza strains A and B are making the rounds while other viral illnesses have sprung up which mimic the flu.
Zafia-Carey collects a nasal sample during a patient visit to determine on site if it’s a case of the flu. In a half-hour, she has Arthur’s results.
It’s not the flu, but Arthur is cautioned to not return to his workplace until he’s fever-free for 24 hours — a lesson for all of us to prevent the spread of viral infections like the flu.
“You don’t want to be exposing them by not taking the appropriate measures,” she warned.
You may have heard it before but wash your hands frequently and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. It’s also still not too late to get a flu shot.
Just remember, it takes two weeks before you start reaping the benefits.