Reports of flu rise from regional to widespread in Kentucky

By Portia Williams

January 11, 2014

Portia Williams

PDT Staff Writer

FRANKFORT, Ky. – Kentucky Department for Public Health is reporting that the influenza (flu) activity level in the state has increased from regional to widespread. KDPH reports that widespread activity is the highest level of flu activity, which indicates increased flu-like activity or flu outbreaks in at least half of the regions in the state.

The activity levels for states are tracked weekly as part of the CDC’s national flu surveillance system.

Stephanie Mayfield, M.D., commissioner of KDPH, taking measures to protect from the flu is paramount.

“With current widespread flu activity being reported in Kentucky and across much of the nation, now is a good time to protect yourself and your family by getting vaccinated for flu,” Mayfield said.

Mayfield emphasized the importance of obtaining the a flu vaccination.

“We are strongly urging anyone who hasn’t received a flu vaccine, particularly those at high risk for complications related to the flu, to check with their health care provider, local health department or pharmacy about vaccine availability.”

According to KDPH, the flu season can begin as early as October, which is when Kentucky reported its first cases this year, and last through May. Peak activity us more prevalent in the early months of the year, January is still a good time to get the flu vaccine.

Vaccination can be given any time during the flu season, and there is a plentiful vaccine supply this season. Since it takes approximately two weeks for vaccine to become fully effective, Kentuckians should not delay vaccination, Dr. Mayfield said.

The best way to protect against the flu is to receive a flu vaccination. The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends flu vaccine for all individuals six months of age and older.

According to KDPH, people who are especially encouraged to receive the flu vaccine, because they may be at higher risk for complications or negative consequences, include:

• Children age 6 months to 19 years;

• Pregnant women;

• Young and middle-aged adults for the 2013-2014 influenza season;

• People 50 years old or older;

• People of any age with chronic health problems;

• People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities;

• Health care workers;

• Caregivers of or people who live with a person at high risk for complications from the flu; and

• Out-of-home caregivers of, or people who live with, children less than 6 months old.

Kentuckians should receive a new flu vaccination each season for optimal protection. Influenza strains currently circulating most widely in Kentucky appear to be covered by this season’s vaccine, according to officials.

Healthy, non-pregnant people, age 2-49 years, can be vaccinated with either the flu shot or the nasal vaccine spray. An intradermal influenza vaccination uses a smaller needle and can be given to adults 18 through 64 years of age. Children younger than 9 years old who did not receive a flu vaccination during the last flu season should receive a second dose four or more weeks after their first vaccination.

Infection with the flu virus can cause fever, headache, cough, sore throat, runny nose, sneezing and body aches. Flu is a very contagious disease caused by the flu virus, which spreads from person to person. According to CDC, approximately 23,000 deaths due to seasonal flu and its complications occur on average each year in the U.S. Actual numbers of deaths vary from year to year.

For more information on influenza or the availability of flu vaccine, please contact your local health department or visit healthalerts.ky.gov.

Portia Williams may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 286 or portiawilliams@civitasmedia.com. For breaking news, follow Portia on Twitter @PortiaWillPDT.