State Representative Doyle Heffley said that Carbon County has seen nearly 150 cases of the flu already this year.

He said, "The Pennsylvania Department of Health has reported a recent significant increase in influenza activity across the state since Thanksgiving."

The Pa. Department of Health reports that so far this year there have been 144 confirmed cases of the flu in Carbon County.

Schuylkill County has had 250 cases reported. There have been two deaths linked to the flu in Schuylkill, the Health Department says.

Statewide, 16,511 cases of the flu were reported so far this year, and a total of 40 deaths.

During the entire flu season of 2011-2012, there were just 3,020 cases of the flu. There were 11 deaths last year.

Allegheny County had five deaths, Philadelphia and Westmoreland counties had four deaths each, Centre and Lancaster counties had three deaths each, and Schuylkill, Bucks, Crawford, Franklin, and Montgomery had two deaths each.

Carbon, Lehigh, and Northampton counties have been spared fatalities.

Of the deaths, most - 34 of the 40 - were individuals over 65 years of age.

No deaths of youngsters were reported, according to Department of Health statistics.

Last week, there were 5,069 new cases of the flu reported, the highest weekly total this year.

The Department of Health says it isn't too late to get flu shots.

In Carbon County, they can be obtained at the Wal-Mart Superstore in Lehighton and at CVS in Nesquehoning.

In Schuylkill, shots are available at the Mahanoy City Senior Community Center.

The Department of Health offers the following flu prevention tips:

Flu Prevention

Ÿ Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water before and following food preparation, before eating and after using restrooms or changing diapers.

Ÿ Be careful what you touch. Hands transmit germs.

Ÿ Cover your nose and mouth with hands or tissues when coughing or sneezing. Wash hands afterward to prevent spreading germs to doorknobs and other items. Discard tissues right way.

Ÿ Get plenty of rest, eat properly, and dress appropriately for the weather.

Ÿ When ill, prevent the spread of germs by staying home from school or the workplace, if possible.

Ÿ During flu season, minimize time in crowded areas, such as shopping centers, and avoid contact with those at high risk for the flu, such as the elderly and those with chronic illness.

Ÿ If over the age of 65, pregnant, or if you have a chronic illness or disease, talk with your doctor about a flu and pneumonia vaccination.