PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — There’s been a big increase in the number of flu cases in Pennsylvania in the past week, and now a total of six deaths related to influenza.
Health officials say 36 states now have mounting cases of people with the flu.
Even though this year’s vaccine is less effective than expected, it’s still the best protection, and the new poll released Wednesday focuses on getting more vaccine into facilities that take care of the elderly.
The latest map from the CDC shows the flu is widespread across much of the country, including in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
Influenza is most dangerous and deadly for the elderly. A new poll says nursing homes and other long-term facilities should do more to protect against the flu.
“Most of the patients that we have are chronically ill, so we want them to receive the vaccine,” said Paula Anton, a clinical nurse specialist at the University of Michigan. “We ask the staff in the hospital to receive the vaccine as well.”
The poll also shows most older adults want nursing homes and other facilities to require flu shots for staff and patients.
“They are the ones that are most likely to have complications, including hospitalizations as well as death,” said Dr. Preeti Malani of the University of Michigan. “We mostly worry about seriously respiratory illnesses and specifically pneumonia.”
In Pennsylvania, there are 6,221 confirmed cases; New Jersey has just over 1,300; and Delaware has 225 people with influenza.
The actual numbers are probably higher because most people with the flu aren’t tested.
The CDC says the influenza A virus, known as H3N2, is dominating this season.
That typically causes increased hospitalizations and deaths in older adults and young children and vaccines are less effective.
“There are some seasons where the vaccine isn’t going to be as good as others, but it’s still important to get a vaccine each year,” said Malani.
Pennsylvania’s Acting Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine said the current extreme cold weather is not expected to dramatically affect the flu, and that even though there’s been a big spike in cases recently, it’s been a pretty average flu season so far.