Flu Cases Appear to Have Peaked, But Season is Not Over

By: Allison Hydzik

For the third straight week, UPMC has seen a decrease in cases of flu systemwide, echoing recently released state numbers showing declining flu cases in Pennsylvania.

However, UPMC’s top emergency medicine physician cautions that this doesn’t guarantee an end to this year’s flu season, which hit unusually early.Flu Shot Concept“Flu seasons can be up and down, and sometimes there can be an early and late peak,” said Donald M. Yealy, M.D., chair of emergency medicine for UPMC. “Flu viruses don’t coordinate with each other, and, so far this year, we’ve mainly seen cases of influenza A. We could still see a wave of influenza B.”

On Wednesday, UPMC had 53 patients in the hospital systemwide positive for flu, down from 157 three weeks ago. Dr. Yealy estimates that UPMC’s emergency departments and urgent care offices are seeing fewer than half the number of flu patients compared with early January.

This season’s peak, which the Pennsylvania Department of Health estimates occurred in late December, is the earliest since the 2009-2010 flu season, when H1N1 swine flu emerged and caused a global pandemic that peaked in early November.

In the 2008-2009 season, Pennsylvania saw two peaks of flu, one in February, followed by another in late May. Last season also had two peaks, though the second one was much less significant than the first.

“All I can say for certain is that flu season is not definitively over yet,” said Dr. Yealy. “Even though we’re seeing fewer cases, we’re still seeing more than we were in early December. So I continue to encourage people to get their flu shot, cover their cough, stay home when sick and wash their hands frequently.”