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Flu ‘widespread’ in Ky., with one flu-related death reported

Kentucky’s influenza level has just been upgraded to “widespread,” prompting state health officials to redouble their advice to Kentuckians to get a flu shot and keep their hands washed.

“With current widespread flu activity being reported in Kentucky, it is a still a good time to protect yourself and your family by getting a flu shot,” Dr. Jeffrey Howard, the state’s acting health commissioner, said in a news release. “The Department for Public Health is strongly urging anyone who hasn’t received a flu vaccine, particularly children 6 months and older and those people at high risk for complications related to the flu, to check with local health departments or other providers about getting the vaccine.”

A “widespread” classification, the highest level of flu activity, is used when at least half of the state’s 17 health regions have increased flu activity.

As of Dec. 16, Kentucky had 350 laboratory-confirmed cases of flu, with just over half between Dec. 10 and 16, according to the weekly influenza surveillance report.

The report says there has been one flu-related adult death this season and seven outbreaks in the state’s nursing homes.

Flu is very contagious and is especially dangerous to small children, the elderly and those who have chronic health conditions. It is caused by a virus that spreads from person to person. Symptoms include fever, headache, cough, sore throat, runny nose, sneezing and body aches.

Persons who develop symptoms should contact their medical provider to determine if they are a good candidate for treatment with an antiviral drug, which could shorten the course of the illness or reduce its severity.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone over six months of age get a flu vaccination, and especially encourages people who may be at higher risk for complications or negative consequences get one. It takes about 2 weeks following the administration of the vaccine for the recipient to develop protection from the flu.

Kentucky Health News is an independent news service of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, based in the School of Journalism and Media at the University of Kentucky, with support from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.