Although the peak of flu season has passed, area hospitals are still seeing plenty of cases, including one that resulted in a death at Washington Hospital.
Dr. Rafael Morales, critical care unit medical director, said Washington Hospital had one death as a result of the H1N1 strain, otherwise known as swine flu. He would not say when the death occurred.
Morales said that between five and seven patients were admitted to the critical care unit as a result of the flu since the beginning of January, and two patient were sent to UPMC hospitals in Pittsburgh for additional treatment. Morales could not provide additional information.
Dr. Robert Smith, the assistant director of the emergency department at Monongahela Valley Hospital, said the hospital has seen 30 flu patients over the last month, two of whom were sent to the intensive care unit.
While Monongahela Valley Hospital does not test for the H1N1 strain, Smith said more than 180 people have tested positive for influenza A. Just six people have tested positive for influenza B, which Smith calls “more serious.”
“People can become more ill with influenza B,” he said.
The swine flu first appeared in the United States in 2009 as an epidemic and continued to pop up over the years in varying degrees. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, there are 451 confirmed cases of the flu in Washington County and 82 in Greene County so far this flu season. However, the number of people seeking treatment for flu-related symptoms is much higher.
The flu is a virus that attacks the respiratory tract, or the throat, nose and lungs. Symptoms can include a cough, fever and in serve cases, it can lead to pneumonia, Smith said. However, Smith said the hospital is not seeing severe cases. Mary Kaufman, communications specialist for the hospital, said the most common symptom the hospital is currently seeing is shortness of breath.
Compared to past years, Kaufman said this year’s flu cases are relatively low in number. While the hospital saw a typical spike in December and January of influenza A cases, Kaufman said it is now seeing a shift to influenza B. She expects this shift to last through March.
Kaufman is still encouraging individuals to get a flu shot if they have not already done so.
A Canonsburg Hospital representative did not return calls seeking information about flu cases there. The flu season typically lasts from October through March.