Flu season comes early to Pennsylvania, and it's hitting hard

Tim Jimenez
December 10, 2019 - 7:26 am

UPDATED: 11:50 a.m.

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Flu season is here, and it's widespread in Pennsylvania with five deaths reported in the state.

Thousands in Pennsylvania have gotten the flu already this season. Flu activity isn't as bad in New Jersey and Delaware, but reported cases are picking up across the country. 

CBS News Medical Contributor Dr. David Agus says it's an early start to the flu season. 

"This year the early strain we're seeing is Type B, called Victoria. And that classically happens in February, March. This year it's happening early," he said.

Health officials stress the importance of getting a flu shot. It's not too late for that. 

Agus says the flu can't be taken lightly. 

"On an average year, 125 to 200 people a day die of the flu. So, this is preventable, most of these deaths, with the vaccine."

Dr. John Russell, Chair of Family Medicine at Abington-Jefferson Health, says it's critical that people roll up their sleeves.

"There's a lot of flu vaccine available. Go get an appropriate shot for your age. You can go to your doctor's office, your clinician's office, a pharmacy. There's lots of places to get it," he said.

Russell says even though the vaccine isn't 100% effective, it can limit the severity of symptoms in people who get the flu. He also says if you feel sick, you should stay home so others aren't infected. 

"What the recommendation from the CDC is everyone over 6 months of age should get a flu shot," Russell said. "And in our country, we're not close in achieving that."

Health officials say with the holidays coming, the virus could spread more quickly.

"People don't want to miss a holiday dinner or a holiday get together, so they go sick and they infect the rest of the family," Russell said.

To help with prevention, people are advised to wash their hands, disinfect objects and spaces they touch all the time, and covering up their coughs and sneezes.