Flu the cause of 21 Pennsylvania deaths

Flu season continued to strengthen in the past week, with the statewide death toll tripling and the number of confirmed cases almost doubling.

One of the deaths is drawing national attention because the victim, a 21-year-old from Pittsburgh, was an otherwise healthy bodybuilder who died within days of getting the flu.

Overall, the Pennsylvania Department of Health reported 12 new victims including one under age 19.

Doctors suggest that if you lose a lot of fluids, have a higher than normal fever or have difficulty breathing that you go to your local emergency room.

While most local hospital say the amount of patients has increased, only UPMC Farrell said they had a higher than normal amount of in patients.

Doctors warn that the Flu shot used this year is still helpful but many strains of flu including several cases of swine flu have occurred to spite the flu shots.

That brings the season total to 18, of which three were from Lancaster County.

As LNP previously reported, the first two victims here were women in their 90s, according to Lancaster General Hospital.

UPMC Pinnacle spokeswoman Kelly McCall said Wednesday that the third was a man in the 65+ age range.

Last year’s flu season was one of the deadliest in recent memory here, with 148 deaths statewide, including at least 12 in Lancaster County.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has described this flu season as “moderately severe,” due in part to the prevalence of the H3N2 strain that typically causes higher rates of hospitalization and death.

The state’s running tally of confirmed cases shows more than 5,300 in the past week, bringing the statewide total to 11,530.

Locally, the tally rose from 210 to 392.

Experts say the total is actually much higher, as not nearly everyone who has the flu gets tested.

Shortage
Nationwide, the flu is coming at a bad time for hospitals struggling to manage a shortage of the sterile saline solution used in IVs. It has long been in short supply, and then in became even harder to get after Hurricane Maria closed a manufacturing facility in Puerto Rico in September.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said recently it believes shortages will start to ease over the next few weeks.

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