Guthrie warns of upcoming influenza season

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February 04 2022 08:00 am

SAYRE, Pa. (WETM) — As COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the Twin Tiers, one local hospital is concerned with another virus.

Dr. Michael Scalzone, executive vice president and chief quality officer at Guthrie, said he expects influenza cases to rise again this winter.

“So I think as most people know, last year was unusual for the flu,” said Dr. Scalzone. “There were very few cases.”

Dr. Scalzone said the reasoning behind the decrease in cases was likely due to COVID-19 restrictions. However, now that those restrictions have ended, there is concern surrounding hospital capacity.

“We have the COVID pandemic and then add flu cases,” said Dr. Scalzone. “That is really concerning.”

According to Dr. Scalzone, Guthrie has given out nearly a third fewer flu vaccines this year in comparison to prior years. However, Guthrie’s supply of influenza vaccinations remains high.

Dr. Sheela Prabhu, interim chair for the department of medicine at Guthrie, said these vaccines are safe for nearly all age groups.

“The best way of prevention to not get the flu is to get vaccinated,” said Dr. Prabhu. “The CDC recommends that patients six months and older can get the vaccine. There are many kinds of vaccines and these are all approved vaccines. They have been studied for so many years.”

Dr. Prabhu said all patients are more prone for infections, however she is concerned for older adults.

“They get complications like sinusitis and pneumonia,” said Dr. Prabhu. “Sometimes they spend a lot of time in the hospitals. So in the time of the COVID pandemic, we really would prefer less admissions to the hospital with the flu.”

Dr. Philip Heavner, system chair of pediatrics at Guthrie, is concerned for children.

“I think there is a misconception that because kids are generally healthy, they are not as susceptible to serious illness with influenza and actually nothing could be further from the truth,” said Dr. Heavner.

Dr. Heavner said on an individual case-by-case basis, influenza is more serious in children than coronavirus.

“Last year, there was one death in people under 18 attributed to influenza in the entire United States,” said Dr. Heavner. “The year before there were 200 [deaths]. The year before that, there were 200 [deaths]. So this is what we are trying to avoid.”

Dr. Scalzone wants to tell the public to please be careful, but also do not delay care.

“Don’t avoid the emergency room and don’t avoid your doctor’s offices,” said Dr. Scalzone. “We have access, we have availability, come and see us. As far as COVID goes, I do want to mention that you can get your flu vaccine and your COVID booster at the same time. So that’s available in our offices. There’s no risk to doing both of those at the same time.”

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