LYCOMING COUNTY, Pa. — Medical professionals around central Pennsylvania are on heightened alert after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released its latest influenza numbers. According to the organization, more than four million people have so far been infected with the flu this season.
"At the current trajectory, we would anticipate that this flu season is going to be one of the worst we have had in over a decade," said Dr. Stan Martin, an infectious disease specialist at Geisinger.
Newswatch 16 sat down with infectious disease experts from both Geisinger and UPMC. Both health systems say they are seeing a rise in flu infections and hospitalizations.
"The fear is that because we had mild flu seasons in the past, we will not only see it start early and start hard but that it will stay up over the next couple of weeks," said Dr. John Goldman, an infectious disease expert at UPMC.
Doctors say the early and high number of flu infections could be related to vaccine hesitancy. They say fewer people are getting the flu shot.
"Flu shots have been around for years and have a proven safety record. I think there is vaccine fatigue; people are tired of getting shots," added Dr. Goldman.
With influenza, RSV, and COVID going around, doctors fear what they call a "tripledemic." Healthcare systems are already starting to prepare.
"We are trying to get as many extra staff as possible because we do believe that numbers are going to go up, and we do believe that we are going to see more people," Dr. Goldman said.
Medical professionals say 30 to 50 thousand Americans die from the flu every year. A flu shot is the best way to prevent hospitalization or death.
"It is totally free of charge. You can get it anywhere at Geisinger and any of our clinics or locations, even in the hospital. If you come to the hospital for a broken leg, guess what? You can get it while you are here," added Dr. Martin.
Both doctors told Newswatch 16 that the best thing people can do is get the necessary vaccines and wash their hands whenever possible.
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