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Consumers Urged to Get Flu Vaccine and Know the Symptoms of Sepsis

February 02, 2018

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) today said that more people are currently hospitalized with the flu than at the peak of the 2014–2015 flu season. This makes the 2017–2018 season the most severe since the CDC implemented tracking and conducting positive rapid tests during 2010.

Forty-eight states continue to report "widespread" flu activity this week, including Pennsylvania.

The H3N2 virus has caused the most difficulty for patients this year. While the flu vaccine may not be effective against H3N2, the CDC and the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) recommend that people still get the flu vaccine.

Flu vaccines are still recommended and available in many locations, including doctor’s offices, urgent care clinics, and pharmacies. In Pennsylvania, pharmacists are permitted to provide all immunizations including influenza vaccine to patients nine years of age and older. The vaccine finder website can be a useful tool for finding a vaccine location. Influenza vaccines are approved for use in people as young as 6 months of age and up, and for use in pregnant women and people with chronic health conditions.

Providers are warning patients that influenza is one of the most common causes of pneumonia, which is a common trigger for sepsis. Doctors have found that the rates of sepsis and severe sepsis go up during flu season. People with the flu, whose symptoms worsen, should seek emergency medical help as soon as possible. They should tell health care personnel that they are concerned about sepsis. Symptoms include:

  • Shivering, fever, or feeling very cold
  • Extreme pain or general discomfort (“worst ever”)
  • Pale or discolored skin
  • Sleepiness, difficulty rousing, confusion
  • An “I feel like I might die” feeling
  • Shortness of breath

Sepsis kills and disables millions of people. Early suspicion and rapid treatment is critical. It is estimated that five to 20 percent (600,000 to 2,400,000) of Pennsylvanians get the flu each year, and 120 to 2,000 die from complications of influenza.

For more information about the flu, visit the DOH website, or the CDC website. For information about how the flu is impacting Pennsylvania hospitals, contact Mark Ross, HAP’s acting director of the statewide emergency preparedness program.

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