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Our View: Time to protect against flu

Many schools in Kentucky were closed this week because of illness. According to Kentucky Health News, more than 20 districts closed because of high absentee rates among students and teachers from illness.

We think this was a good call on the superintendents’ part. Closing school will allow the students and teachers who are sick to recover, protect those who are not sick from catching an illness and allow districts to deep clean schools to kill germs and set them up for a healthier continuation of the school year.

While there are likely various illnesses spreading ranging from the common cold to viruses, one primary illness seeing an uptick in Kentucky is influenza.

We’ve written about it before, but here is another reminder that is not too late to be vaccinated against this potentially fatal illness and it is never too late to practice good hygiene to protect against spreading germs.

Many people underestimate the severity of the flu and the power of a flu vaccine.

According to the most recent weekly influenza report from the Kentucky Department for Public Health, there were 13,287 confirmed cases of influenza for the 2019-2020 flu season as of Jan. 25.

Through the fourth week of the year, the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that so far for the season, there had been at least 19 million flu illnesses. There are likely many more cases of the flu, but only laboratory-confirmed cases are reported to the CDC.

Influenza is a contagious respiratory illness caused by viruses. Elderly people, children and people with certain health conditions are particularly susceptible to the illness.

Symptoms range from fever to cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea.

So far this season, there have been 180,000 hospitalizations and 10,000 deaths from flu in the U.S., and 33 of those were Kentuckians. There have been 68 pediatric flu deaths in the U.S.

There were three new flu-related deaths in Kentucky in the last week for which data is available, which ended Jan. 25.

The CDC suggests the best way to reduce the likelihood of getting flu is to be vaccinated for the most common kinds each year. It generally reduces the risk of flu by about 40 to 60 percent, can reduce the severity of conditions if one does get the flu, and can protect relatives and others and people with whom one comes in contact.

Health officials recommend everyone over 6 months old get an annual flu vaccination. It is not too late, since the season usually runs through May.

In addition to the vaccine, practicing good hygiene is the best defense. Frequent and thorough hand washing is important, especially after coughing sneezing, shaking hands or touching surfaces like doorknobs or handrails.

Use hand sanitizer when you cannot wash your hands, making sure to soak your hands and let it dry fully.

If you are sick, stay home from school or work. That also means avoiding other public places like grocery stores, churches and restaurants. If you’re too ill to go to school or work, you’re too ill to be anywhere but home recuperating and containing your germs.

Taking measures to protect against the spread of flu is particularly important because a portion of the population cannot be vaccinated, including infants, the immunocompromised and people with other medical conditions.

As the nation sees an uptick in flu cases, now is the time to take these precautions to protect you, your loved ones and anyone else with whom you come in contact.

Editorials represent the opinion of the newspaper’s editorial board. The board comprises publisher Michael Caldwell and Bluegrass Newsmedia editors Whitney Leggett and Ben Kleppinger. To inquire about a meeting with the board, contact Caldwell at 759-0095.