Time for that flu shot: Kentucky influenza level rises from regional to widespread

FRANKFORT, Ky. -- The Kentucky Department for Public Health (DHP) announced the state's influenza level has risen from “regional” to “widespread” this week, indicating increased flu-like activity or flu outbreaks in at least half of the regions in the state.

“With widespread flu activity reported in Kentucky, now is a good time to protect yourself and your family by getting a flu shot”, said Hiram C. Polk Jr., commissioner of DPH. “We urge anyone who hasn’t received a flu vaccine, particularly those at high risk for complications related to the flu, to check with local health departments or other providers.”

Every year, more than 200,000 people die because of flu complications, yet many people won't get the flu shot this year based on misconceptions. Some of the biggest ones are that you can get the flu if you get the flu shot and that you don't have to get vaccinated every year if you're healthy. 

Hamilton County's assistant health commissioner, Craig Davidson, insists those things simply aren't true.

"There's really there's really no excuse, even if it's not for you," Davidson said. "The more people that are vaccinated the more people that you were helping to protect that can't get the vaccine. There are some people that can't get it: people with a compromised immune system or elderly that have other complications medically."

So if you've procrastinated, now's the time to do it. Most doctor's offices, pharmacies and even grocery stores offer the flu shot at affordable prices or sometimes even free.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the flu vaccine for all individuals six months of age and older. However, the nasal spray flu vaccine should not be used because it has been shown to be ineffective. People who are strongly encouraged to receive the flu vaccine because they may be at higher risk for complications or negative consequences include:

  • Children age six months through 59 months;
  • Women who are or will be pregnant during the influenza season;
  • Persons 50 years of age or older;
  • Persons with extreme obesity (Body Mass Index of 40 or greater);
  • Persons aged six months and older with chronic health problems;
  • Residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities;
  • Household contacts (including children) and caregivers of children aged ≤59 months (i.e., aged <five years, particularly contacts of children aged <six months) and adults aged ≥50 years;
  • Household contacts and caregivers or people who live with a person at high-risk for complications from the flu;
  • Health care workers, including physicians, nurses, and other workers in inpatient and outpatient-care settings, medical emergency-response workers (e.g., paramedics and emergency medical technicians), employees of nursing home and long-term care facilities who have contact with patients or residents, and students in these professions who will have contact with patients.

Adequate supplies of flu vaccine are available for this year’s season. Vaccinations can be given any time during the flu season. The flu activity level is tracked weekly as part of the CDC national flu surveillance system.

“You should also follow the advice your parents gave you to prevent flu and other illnesses that tend to circulate at this time of year – wash your hands frequently, cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze and stay home when you’re sick,” concluded CHFS Secretary Vickie Yates Brown Gilsson.

Infection with the flu virus can cause fever, headache, cough, sore throat, runny nose, sneezing and body aches. Flu can be very contagious. For more information on influenza or the availability of flu vaccine, please contact your local health department or visit the Kentucky Health Alerts website here.

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