What may be the most widespread flu season in recent Pennsylvania history is finally drawing to a close, with more confirmed cases statewide than any year since the state started posting records in 2006.
"Only one positive flu case in the past week between our hospitals," said Danielle Gilmore, spokeswoman for Lancaster Regional Medical Center and Heart of Lancaster Regional Medical Center. "We are seeing many patients who are sneezing and coughing, but most are allergy related."
The statewide tally, which represents only a fraction of the total cases as most aren't tested, stands at 70,259, with more likely to trickle in over the coming weeks until the books are closed. The second-highest total was in 2015, with 55,533 at the end of the season.
Lancaster County had 1,665 confirmed cases so far, second to 2013, when it logged 1,810.
Data on flu-related deaths is less definitive, as the state has stopped reporting where they happened, but county hospitals here told LNP there were 12 this season. The most LNP records show in recent years was 10 in 2013.
Statewide, there have been 144 flu-related deaths this season, including four people under age 19. That's lower than the totals of 221 in 2015 and 200 in 2013.
April Hutcheson, spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of Health, noted that testing patterns have changed over time, making accurate comparisons between seasons difficult.
She also said there is no “normal” flu season, but that ones with the A/H3N2 strain predominating tend to be hard — and that was the case this year.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention estimates the flu shot was about 48 percent effective this year, down from 59 percent last year. Estimates on how many people were vaccinated are not yet available for this season.