Pennsylvania Confirms First Flu Case

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A woman in Centre County is the North Central region's first state laboratory-confirmed case of influenza this season, the Pennsylvania Department of Health said today.

"Peak flu season is quickly approaching," said acting Health Secretary Everette James. "We cannot over-emphasize the importance of getting vaccinated. It's the best way to protect yourself and those around you."

The influenza vaccine is recommended for the following high-risk individuals:

* All children 6 months through 18 years of age;

* People 50 years of age and older regardless of their medical history;

* People with underlying health conditions such as heart, respiratory, kidney, liver metabolic, and immune system problems;

* People with weakened immune systems such as HIV/AIDS, long-term treatment of steroids, and cancer treatment with X-rays or drugs;

* People who have cognitive dysfunction, and muscle or nerve disorders (such as spinal cord injury, cerebral palsy or seizure disorders) that can lead to breathing or swallowing problems;

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* People who are receiving long-term aspirin therapy who, therefore, might be at risk for Reyes syndrome after influenza infection;

* Residents of nursing homes and other chronic-care facilities;

* Women who will be pregnant anytime during the influenza season;

* Household contacts and out-of-home caregivers of children 0-59 months of age;

* Physicians, nurses, family members, or anyone else in close contact with any of these groups at risk for influenza; and

* Anyone wishing to reduce the likelihood of becoming ill from influenza.

Each year, an estimated 36,000 individuals die from influenza-related illnesses and more than 200,000 people are hospitalized nationwide. Rates of serious illness and death are highest among people over the age of 65 and individuals of any age who have chronic medical conditions that place them at increased risk for complications from influenza.

Recommended ways to prevent the spread of the flu include frequent hand washing, covering your nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing, and, when possible, avoiding contact with others when you are sick. It is also important to consult with your medical provider as soon as the first symptoms of influenza appear since certain antiviral prescription drugs may lessen the duration and severity of the illness if taken early.

Flu cases traditionally peak between January and March, so individuals should consider getting vaccinated now. It takes one to two weeks to build up immunity after receiving the flu vaccine.

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