Dr. Kristen Mertz Statement on First Flu Death in Allegheny County

PITTSBURGH – Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) Epidemiologist Dr. Kristen Mertz issued the following statement in response to the first flu death reported in Allegheny County:

“ACHD has been notified that one Allegheny County resident that has died due to flu complications. The resident was over 90 years of age and had underlying medical conditions.

“We have seen a larger number of flu cases this year compared to last year at this time, particularly Type B flu. Despite the increase in overall cases, less than 1% of reported flu cases resulted in hospitalizations. It’s still too early this flu season to make any predictions or speculate what’s to come.

“Residents should call their health care provider as soon as possible if they’re experiencing flu symptoms (fever, muscle aches, cough, sore throat and fatigue) to determine if antiviral drugs should be prescribed. Antivirals can reduce severity of illness and are recommended for those at high-risk for flu complications: the elderly, young children, pregnant women, and persons with chronic medical conditions. This medication works best if started within two days of onset of symptoms.

“The best way to fight the flu is to get vaccinated. While the effectiveness of this year’s vaccine has not yet been determined, it’s very important to get a flu shot every year. Not only does it protect you from getting sick, it can protect you from spreading the flu to your loved ones and those that cannot be vaccinated. It’s never too late to get a flu shot and we encourage residents to get one if they haven’t already done so.

“To prevent flu transmission, you should also wash your hands frequently, cough or sneeze into your elbow or shoulder and not your hands and stay at home if you’re sick.”