The seasonal flu is now widespread in Pennsylvania and most other states, bringing misery in the form of body aches, headaches, sore throats, fevers and coughing to thousands of people.
From the official start of the flu season, when confirmed cases are tracked, through Jan. 11, a total of 6,053 Pennsylvanians were diagnosed with seasonal flu.
Of those, 27 were in Carbon County; 49 were in Monroe County; and 57 were in Schuylkill County.
The virus is not to be taken lightly. Fourteen people have died of flu in Pennsylvania as of Jan. 11, according to the state department of health. Two people were between 19-24 years old; four were between 25-49 years old; and five were between 50-64 years old. Three were over 65.
So far, 20 children have died of the flu this season half of them in the second week of January, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Nine of those children were in CDC's seasonal flu Region 6 (Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas). Seven children died in Region 4 (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee). One child died in each of Regions 1 (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont); Region 3 (Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia); Region 5 (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin) and Region 10 (Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington).
The seasonal flu is now widespread in all states except Florida, Arizona, Iowa, South Carolina, Alabama and Mississippi.
"Widespread" means that more than half of the counties in a state, are reporting flu activity.
TIMES NEWS readers Stacie Corrado-Strack of Jim Thorpe and Theresa Gusick of Lansford responded to a Facebook post asking people to share their experiences with the flu.
Corrado-Strack said she was sick between Jan. 2 and Jan. 12.
"Spent five days in bed. Low grade fevers, sweats and chills, aches. Cough and resp(iratory) maybe third day in," she wrote.
Gusick wrote that she became ill Jan. 1, with a 102.8 degree fever.
She went to an emergency room the next morning, where she was given a chest X-ray, a shot of some kind and oral medication.
She was given a nasal swab test for flu, but was told she did not have the flu. Gusick said she had a fever for six days, and was achy, had a sore throat, headache and could not get out of bed for at least two days. Her son, who lives with her, also became ill, she said.
Health experts urge everyone to get a flu vaccine, and it's not too late to do that.
The vaccines are widely available at drug stores, doctors' offices and clinics.
"We ask everybody who comes through the door, have you had your flu shot?" says pharmacist John Krupa of First National Pharmacy, Lehighton.
For those who have just come down with the flu, a prescription for Tamiflu may ease the symptoms.
Krupa says he hasn't seen a rush on the drug as of now. He ordered enough for 10 prescriptions in September, and still has one left.
"You must start taking it within 72 hours of diagnosis. If you start feeling body aches and low fever, go to your doctor right away," he says.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health offers these tips to help prevent the spread of season flu:
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.