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Number of confirmed flu cases high early into season

By Maria Miller

JOHNSTOWN, Pa. -- We haven't hit the peak of flu season yet but the virus is already widespread in 10 states, including Pennsylvania.

The Centers for Disease Control has reported roughly 1,200 cases statewide since the end of September, with Allegheny and Blair counties having the highest numbers of cases at 67 each. Cambria County has had 34 confirmed cases.

Doctors at Conemaugh's Memorial Medical Center said they've seen many of those cases, but said they've seen even more people with flu-like symptoms.

Believe it or not, there's no actual flu remedy. All doctors can do is temporarily treat the symptoms. And while they say they don't mind doing that, they say they'd rather people who have the flu stay home and leave the emergency room for those with real emergencies.

"(Symptoms of the flu include) sudden onset fever, chills, diffuse muscle aches, runny nose and a bit of a headache," said Dr. Kevin Casey, medical director of emergency services at Conemaugh Memorial Center. "Just overall feeling quite poorly. It's somewhat like a cold but much worse."

It's enough to make you want to skip out on school or work and stay in bed and Casey said that's just the place you should stay if you think you have the flu.

"Going out, you're just going to spread it to other people," said Casey. "The best thing you can do is just drink a lot of fluids and take over-the-counter pain relievers, the Motrins, the Tylenols, drink lots and lots of fluids, try to avoid contact with other people and just get plenty of rest."

And that's really all you can do, because Casey said there's no remedy for the flu. He said all they can do at the hospital is treat the symptoms.

"Sometimes we can prescribe a medicine which makes you feel a little bit better about a half a day earlier, but you really have to let it run its course," said Casey.

And that's why doctors say unless you're young, elderly, have preexisting conditions or your symptoms are extremely bad, it's best to just stay home and leave the ER for real emergencies.

"Oftentimes people have to wait before they get to come back and be seen simply because we have other people that are very sick and very injured that we need to treat," said Casey. "Sometimes the wait can be a little longer, certainly longer than we'd like it to be, and it can be frustrating because there's not a whole lot we can do to make it better."

Even though flu season is underway, Casey said it's not too late to get a flu shot if you haven't already. In fact, it's something he recommends.

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Edgar Snyder

Washington Times