Coronavirus may be grabbing all the headlines, but it’s the plain old flu that’s worrying local physician Jeffrey Yocum.
“It’s here. Big time. Right now.” said Dr. Yocum, who is not only a family doctor, but the City of Lebanon’s Health Officer and the longtime Lebanon County Coroner.
There had been about 2,460 coronavirus deaths worldwide through Feb. 22, none in the U.S. However, the Center for Disease Control estimated that at least 14,000 people in the U.S. alone died of influenza between Oct. 1, 2019 and Feb. 8, 2020.
The latest statistics from the Pennsylvania Department of Health show 896 confirmed cases in Lebanon County between Sept. 29, 2019, the start of “flu surveillance season,” and Feb. 15, 2020.
That number breaks down to 352 cases of the more severe Type A influenza, and 544 cases of Type B. Dr. Yocum agreed that he’s seeing more Type B cases this season.
He thinks the total number of county flu victims this season is almost certainly higher than 896 “because lots of people don’t seek medical attention, they just ride it out.”
There were no confirmed flu-related fatalities in Lebanon County through Feb. 21.
The CDC estimates that this year’s flu vaccine is 45% effective among all ages, and 55% effective for children. Overall, CDC said the vaccine is more effective against Type B than Type A.
Many people mistake a bad cold for the flu, but Dr. Yocum said once you’ve really had the flu, there’s no confusing the two. “A 102 or 103 degree fever is a sign of the flu, not a cold.” The fever is usually accompanied by bad headaches and muscle soreness, cough, sore throat, and fatigue. “It can feel like you’ve been hit by a bus,” Dr. Yocum says.
When interviewed on Feb. 21, the doctor said he was seeing a spike in new local flu cases, in contrast to the statewide numbers that suggested new cases had peaked a few weeks earlier. “We’re definitely seeing more cases in the past two weeks.”
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