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Pa. Flu Cases Starting to Fall

Flu cases are starting to fall in Pennsylvania but plenty of other illnesses still are going around.

If it feels like everyone you know is or has been sick lately, it's probably because they have.

This year's flu season actually hasn't been terrible, said Dr. David Damsker. But legions of other viruses have been circulating along with the flu, making it a bad season overall for illness.

"This is probably the worst non-flu respiratory season I’ve seen in a long time," said Damsker, who is head of the Bucks County Department of Health, based in Doylestown. "We’ve had more people sick this year than in any recent year I can remember. There’s so much going around."

Among this season's culprits are norovirus, coronavirus and adenoviruses, Damsker said.

Norovirus is a stomach bug which causes vomiting and diarrhea.  Coronaviruses typically cause respiratory infections, as do adenoviruses.

So while influenza certainly is a factor this year, it isn't the sole culprit.

In fact, this year's influenza outbreak isn't even particularly bad.

"The last few weeks have actually been the worst part of what is really just a  moderate flu season," Damsker said. "But in recent years, flu season has been fairly mild. Plus, with all the other stuff that's going around, I think that’s why this flu season seems bad."

So far this season, lab tests have confirmed 836 cases of the flu in Bucks County, and 1,207 in Montgomery County, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health's weekly flu update.

But those are just a small fraction of the true number of people with the flu, Damsker said, because lab tests are not run in most cases.

Each year, an estimated 40,000 people nationwide die from the complications of the flu, often pneumonia, Damsker said.

This year, eight people are lab-confirmed to have died of the flu in Montgomery County and two people in Bucks County, according to data from the state.

Damsker said both Bucks County residents were elderly and had other health issues.

If nothing else, this year's flu season will remind people that the influenza remains a serious illness.

"This is nothing out of the ordinary. But it should be a lesson to people," Damsker said. "The flu is always unpredictable."

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