Influenza cases, colds in the western Pa., While people relax covid-19 precautions
Influenza cases, colds in the western Pa., While people relax covid-19 precautions

Influenza cases, colds in the western Pa., While people relax covid-19 precautions

Influenza cases are now more than covid-19 cases in some areas of western Pennsylvania, though they remain well below the number of pre-pandemics, experts say.

“Over the last few weeks, there has certainly been an increase in non-covid-related diseases in the region. The most important among these pathogens has been the annual flu virus,” said Dr. Thomas Kessler, a physician at MedExpress Emergency Center at Mosside Boulevard in Monroeville.

As of April 9, Allegheny County had recorded 3,266 cases of influenza since the start of the October flu season, more than 10 times the 305 recorded at this time last year. The latest figures are still a fraction of the nearly 13,800 cases reported within the same time frame in the 2019-20 flu season.

However, the numbers week over week have not followed their usual pattern, said Dr. Richard Zimmerman, Professor at the University of Pittsburgh in Family Medicine and Public Health.

Cases of influenza generally tick upwards in December and come in two waves: influenza A and influenza B, usually in that order. So far this season, in both Allegheny County and Pennsylvania as a whole, there have been two peaks, and the vast majority of cases have been Influenza A.

“This has been a surprising year,” Zimmerman said.

Pennsylvania Department of Health

Data from the Pennsylvania Department of Health shows the peaks and valleys of the flu season 2021-2022 so far. The flu season generally runs from October to May.

In Westmoreland County, there have been 1,571 cases of flu so far this year. The county registered 3,670 throughout the 2019-20 flu season.

Zimmerman said the main reason that flu A circulates so widely is the fact that the flu vaccine offered in the fall does not protect against the specific strain.

“It’s a little hard to ask a vaccine to protect against the virus that is not in it,” he said. “People think the flu is the same. It’s not.”

He said flu cases are more than covid cases across UPMC test sites. This is also the case in other health systems.

“Of course we had the omicron increase towards the end of the year and it’s dead significantly,” said Dr. Kip Jenifer, an emergency physician at AHN Hempfield. “Now we’ve had – I do not want to say much – but we’ve had flu cases.”

Kessler said that although cases remain below pre-pandemic levels, “this increase is a bit unusual for this time of year, when the pattern typically shows a steady decline in influenza cases.”

He said April usually marks a turning point for acute care facilities, with the majority of visits ranging from respiratory illnesses to injuries from hot weather activities.

“This year, spring showers have instead brought more coughs and colds over the last few weeks,” Kessler said, noting that he has also seen an increase in stomach problems.

“Undoubtedly, a mitigation of mitigating factors has played a role in this increase,” he said, “and time will tell whether further social interaction during the summer months will continue this pattern.”

Jenifer said cases of influenza are more cases of covid-19, although they are still not at the level they were pre-pandemic.

“I think the social distancing, the masking, the handwashing and stuff like that has cut down on all the flu cases over the last few years too,” he said.

He said the logic would dictate that other diseases have increased as covid-reducing measures have been eased and people have failed their guard.

“I can not say that I am 100% sure of the science and the data behind it, but I suppose that when we start to loosen up and have less masking, our flu virus and stuff will start to rise again,” Jenifer said.

“But I think the pandemic may have proven to everyone that frequent hand washing, keeping distance, does not work when you are sick – that kind of thing can be continued and may actually begin to improve our numbers in the future for some of these. respiratory diseases, “he said.

On top of the spread of the flu, it is also allergy season.

“I’ve seen a lot of seasonal allergy sufferers in my center over the last few weeks,” Kessler said.

He said it’s hard to say if this year has been worse than others, but the weather may play a role.

“I can say that the turbulent and shaky weather patterns we have seen in terms of temperature and atmospheric pressure recently may leave individuals more prone to the effects of seasonal allergies,” he said.

He added that allergies can mimic diseases.

“Allergic rhinitis can lead to some confusion by distinguishing a seasonal condition from an upper respiratory tract disease,” Kessler said. “A history of allergies and the absence of other symptoms such as fever or body aches usually provides the appropriate diagnosis.”

Megan Guza is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 412-380-8519, [email protected] or via Twitter .


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