Centre County flu numbers’ shocking rise causes worry

Everyone knows the flu is bad this year.

Reminders are everywhere. Schools are urging caution in sending kids with symptoms. Mount Nittany Hospital is warning visitors to be careful. Penn State and Thon are suggesting staying away if you’re not feeling great.

But how bad is it really?

A lot worse than it was last month.

As of Jan. 23, Pennsylvania had more than 25,000 cases statewide. The highest concentration was around the Pittsburgh area, but in Centre County, there were 434 diagnosed cases, putting Happy Valley in the top third of the state’s counties testing positive for strains of the potentially deadly respiratory infection.

It took four months to get that many cases, according to the state Department of Health, which started monitoring season flu on Oct. 1, 2017.

Now the number is 1,264 — almost 200 percent higher in just three weeks.

Neighboring counties are also impacted. Blair has 1,198 cases. Clearfield has 606. Huntingdon has 463, Mifflin 364 and Union 371. The county with the fewest cases is Clinton, with just 87.

Deaths are also up overall in Pennsylvania. According to the state, there have been another 60 deaths in the last three weeks, bringing the total to 107.

That includes two pediatric deaths attributed to the flu. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta says that even healthy children are at risk to flu-related death in the 2017-2018 outbreak.