Health officials say flu now widespread across Pa.

Posted: 6:41 AM EST Dec 12, 2012   Updated: 6:56 AM EST Dec 12, 2012
Cold or flu?

 State health officials say they've seen a significant increase in flu cases across Pennsylvania recently.

Officials say the number of cases reported to the Health Department more than doubled in the past week.

Flu activity is now considered widespread in Pennsylvania. That means at least half the state is experiencing outbreaks of influenza or increases in flu-like illnesses.

Acting Health Secretary Michael Wolf is urging state residents to get flu shots.

“If you decided to wait, now is the perfect time to get vaccinated against the flu,” Acting Secretary of Health Michael Wolf said. “Ensuring that you and your family get vaccinated will reduce the chance that your holiday plans will be affected from the flu.”  

Officials say the flu strains seen here appear to be well matched to this year's vaccine.

Everyone over the age of six months is urged to get a flu shot. But the vaccine is especially important for the elderly, pregnant women, and people with chronic health conditions that place them at increased risk of complications from the flu.

It takes 10 to 14 days to obtain the full protective benefit from the flu vaccine.

The flu appeared earlier than usual this year. Widespread activity is usually not seen until January.

Now that the flu is here, in addition to getting vaccinated, everyone should take common sense precautions to keep it from spreading to others. These include:

• Cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing.
• Stay at home when ill.
• Wash your hands often with soap and water. Alcohol based hand sanitizers can also be used when soap and water are not handy.
• Clean and disinfect high use surfaces, especially if someone has been coughing or sneezing in the area.

For more information on seasonal influenza, contact your local health care provider or visit