The flu season is reaching its peak and many have been feeling the effects.

That’s according to Dr. David Nace, director of long-term care and flu programs for the Division of Geriatric Medicine at UPMC and medical director at the University of Pittsburgh Institute on Aging.

Nace says the flu has been widespread this season, but not as virulent.
“We’re certainly seeing a lot more overall activity than we did last year, in terms of numbers of hospitalizations," he said. "What’s interesting though is last year we saw a lot more critical illness.”

AP Photo/Darron Cummings

Every year doctors encourage nearly everyone to get a flu shot, but this year the vaccine is less effective and the strain going around is more deadly.

That's leading doctors to be even more vocal when it comes to encouraging people to get the vaccine.

When it comes to protecting those most vulnerable to influenza, a high-dose flu vaccine may be most effective.

That’s according to the findings of a study from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine which found that giving a high-dose vaccine to elderly people in long-term care facilities helped build immunity. Each year in the U.S. there are 3,000 to 49,000 influenza-related deaths.

As the cooler weather moves in so do the heavier jackets and sniffles, and the Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD)  is gearing up for the coming flu season by offering vaccinations.

Starting Monday (9/15) the ACHD’s vaccine clinic in Oakland will provide flu shots for $25.

“The single best way to protect against the flu is to vaccinate people, and it’s recommended for everyone six months of age and older,” said Sharon Silvestri, the Chief of Infectious Disease at Allegheny Health Department.

Starting next year, UPMC will implement a universal influenza immunization policy for all staff working in clinical locations. The current policy strongly encourages employees to get the flu shot. The reason for the new policy is primarily patient safety.

Flu 'Widespread' in PA, CDC Says

Dec 30, 2013

Influenza is now considered to be “widespread” in Pennsylvania as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), with health officials reporting outbreaks in at least half the regions of the state.

During the last flu season there were 1,415 confirmed cases of influenza in Allegheny County, but the health department adds that for every one laboratory-tested case there are as many as 100 others.

More vulnerable groups of people, such as the elderly and infants, are often affected by life-threatening symptoms brought on by the virus. This Thanksgiving, healthcare organizations in the area are starting a new initiative to help some of the most vulnerable residents.