Flu Season

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UPMC patients can get their flu vaccines starting this week, but unlike previous years, these immunizations were not manufactured with chicken eggs.

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Gov. Tom Wolf drew support from both environmentalists and energy insiders when he promised to ease the state's permit application backlog and better enforce regulations by hiring 35 more Department of Environmental Protection inspectors.

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This flu season has been particularly severe, with the Allegheny County Health Department reporting that last week three people died from flu complications; 260 people have been hospitalized. 

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The influenza virus spreads one person at at time.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an infected individual coughs, sneezes or even just talks, and airborne droplets land in the mouths and noses of other people up to 6 feet away.

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Every day, Pine-Richland High School Nurse Susan Leonberg sees 30 to 40 students come through her office door. 

She said the number of students is average, but the number of flu cases she's seen isn't. So far, no confirmed flu cases have been reported.

“Many times, we do not get notified of confirmed cases," Leonberg said. "But as far as clinically, I don’t think we have seen it. We’ve had sick children, but not flu sick. You know, the normal kind of stuff.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicted this year’s flu vaccine would be “much better” suited to fight circulating strains of the flu virus, according to Marc Itskowitz, an internal medicine physician at Allegheny General Hospital.

“So far it looks like [the virus and vaccine] will be well matched, and that usually means the efficacy rate will be better,” Itskowitz said.

He added, however, that vaccines’ effectiveness can never be truly predicted.

PA Eyes Avian Flu Threat

Sep 4, 2015
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  Pennsylvania is bracing for a possible outbreak of what was once called the “fowl plague” – a highly contagious form of bird flu that devastated entire poultry flocks in the Midwest this spring.

The commonwealth saw severe cases of the bird flu in the 1980s. Since then, commercial poultry operations have become more complex, and keeping backyard hens is more popular –- as evidenced, perhaps, by a certain website purveying in rent-a-chickens.

The Allegheny County Health Department says 15 people have now died from the flu in the Pittsburgh area, but that this season's outbreak seems to be slowing down.

All of the victims were at least 55 and most had other health problems. Fifteen people died last flu season, and more deaths are possible this season.

Still, officials say this is one of the worst flu seasons in recent memory with nearly 4,000 cases reported.

AP Photo/Darron Cummings

Every year doctors encourage nearly everyone to get a flu shot, but this year the vaccine is less effective and the strain going around is more deadly.

That's leading doctors to be even more vocal when it comes to encouraging people to get the vaccine.