It's not too late to get your flu shot, even though the flu has hit earlier and more broadly than usual, experts say. It generally takes about two weeks for a flu vaccine to be most effective, said Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Getting the shot in mid-January might seem too late, but it's "better late than never," he said during a teleconference Friday.
The CDC says the flu has been widespread in Kentucky for more than five weeks, far more than last year. "Most of the country is seeing a lot of flu, and this may continue for several weeks," Frieden said. "We don't know if we are over the peak."
Getting a flu shot can protect your neighbors, too. The protection afforded by the current vaccine is an important tool in protecting the health of the general public. The flu can be serious, especially in senior citizens, those with other chronic health problems and children. This season's outbreak has led to the deaths of 20 children as of Friday.
The CDC has found that the current flu vaccine is 62 percent effective, meaning if you get vaccinated, "You are 62 percent less likely to get the flu," writes Mary Meehan of the Lexington Herald-Leader.
It is also important that people with flu symptoms seek treatment. Anti-virals such as Tamiflu can be effective in reducing the most serious symptoms, Frieden said. "If you get flu-like symptoms, it can really help you avoid serious illness, hospitalization or even death," he said.
Meehan's story includes advice for dealing with children and tips about how to avoid getting the flu. To read it, click here.
UPDATE: In response to the flu, the University of Kentucky today limited visitation at its hospitals: None will be under 18 or have any flu-like symptoms, and only two will be allowed in a patient’s room at a time. Visitors may be issued masks or other protective clothing, and other restrictions may be imposed in special care units such as women’s and children’s units, critical care and oncology units. "Compassionate visitation exceptions will be made on a case-by-case basis," a UK release said.