Flu kills 2 adults, one child in Montco
This season's flu has hit the Philadelphia region, killing two adults and a child in Montgomery County, officials reported Tuesday.
A 32-year-old Upper Merion woman died on Christmas, a 24-year-old Norristown man died Jan. 3, and a 2-year-old Lower Merion child died Dec. 21, said Harriet Morton, spokeswoman for the county Health Department.
She said that because of the fatalities, the department was advising all members of the public older than 6 months to go for a flu shot.
"If you have not gotten the flu vaccine, it is important, and this is why," Morton said.
Across the nation, the flu season is beginning to develop momentum, according to data on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's website. For the period Oct. 3 to Dec. 25, the agency reported 961 cases of laboratory-confirmed influenza and 19 deaths.
No flu deaths have been reported in New Jersey, according to Marilyn Riley, spokeswoman for the state's Department of Health and Senior Services.
None has been reported in Philadelphia, either, according to the city Department of Public Health.
In Pennsylvania thus far, there have been eight deaths, including the three in Montgomery County. Two occurred in Lehigh County, and one each in Westmoreland, Erie, and Lancaster Counties, said Holli Senior, press secretary for the state's Health Department and health communications.
The ages of the victims ranged from 2 to 65, Senior said. Three of the fatalities were due to the type A/H3N2 strain, two were due to A/H1N1, and three others have not been typed, Senior said.
The 2-year-old in Lower Merion died of pneumonia, as did another victim, she said.
"Most individuals that die as a result of the flu have had some kind of underlying condition," Senior said in an e-mail.
Partly as a result, many flu-related deaths do not get recorded as due to the flu, so official reports, based on laboratory-confirmed cases, reflect only a small portion of the actual toll. National estimates are based on mathematical models.
For the week ended Jan. 1, there was an increase in flu cases in Pennsylvania; the jump was more evident in the eastern part of the state, according to data on the state Health Department website.
Of 182 flu cases reported during that week - up from 174 the prior week - officials said influenza type A accounted for 90 percent of flu viruses, with flu type B accounting for the rest.
This year's flu shot covers the three strains that appear to be circulating in large numbers: A/H3N2, A/H1N1, and B.
Most hospitalizations and deaths were among people who had no vaccination, prompting health officials to stress the importance of the flu shot.
"Flu vaccines are readily available this season, are well matched to the circulating strains, and there is still time to get a flu vaccine," Senior said.
Morton said the three patients who died of the flu in Montgomery County had not had flu shots. She declined to characterize the deaths or give details of the patients' previous health, citing federal regulations.
Morton said the toddler was enrolled in a day-care center, but she would not give the name or location. She said that the facility has not been closed and that precautions had been taken to protect other children.
Morton said the symptoms of flu are fever, a runny nose, cough, and, often, extreme fatigue. Sore throat, headache, and muscle aches can be present as well.
She said that, while the shot was the best protection, commonsense measures such as covering your mouth and nose when you cough and washing your hands worked well, too.
"If you have the flu," Morton said, "stay home."
The shots are being offered by Health Department clinics and at some pharmacies throughout the Philadelphia region.
Senior said anyone concerned about the flu worsening into a grave illness should see a physician.
"You should also get plenty of rest and drink lots of fluids," she said.
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