HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania Department of Health said flu is now “widespread” throughout the state and things are likely only going to get worse because the season typically doesn’t peak until the middle of this month or February.
There have been more than 11,000 laboratory-confirmed flu cases in the state since the flu season began in mid-December, with nearly 4,300 of those reported last week alone.
The department’s flu-tracking website, www.flufreepa.com, says “widespread” is the highest category for tracking the virus. That means there have been outbreaks or increases in flu-like or “laboratory-confirmed influenza in at least half the regions of the state with recent laboratory evidence of influenza in the state.”
As of Friday, 971 flu-related hospitalizations and 22 deaths have been reported during the flu season.
In Allentown, a hospital dealing with an onslaught of flu patients is setting up a special tent outside the emergency room to deal with those cases.
Lehigh Valley Hospital is setting up the “mobile surge tent” on Tuesday. The move comes after cases were piling up at the Salisbury Township hospital on Monday, with the hospital reporting an extremely busy flu season so far.
The Lehigh Valley Health Network said the tent will be accepting patients experiencing flu-like symptoms. The health system said those patients should still report to the main emergency entrance for treatment first.
Spokesman Matthew Burns said it’s too early to tell how long the tent will be open. Burns said it could end up growing or it could only be there a week.