12:55pm

Wed November 9, 2011
Science/Health

First Confirmed Case of Influenza in Kentucky

Kentucky Department for Public Health officials are urging Kentuckians to get a flu vaccination after the season’s first lab-confirmed case of influenza was reported this week. The case was from Jessamine County.
DPH is reporting the results to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as part of statewide flu surveillance efforts. Kentucky’s flu activity is currently classified as "sporadic," the lowest level of flu activity.

The flu season can begin as early as October and last through May and usually peaks between January and March. January is still a good month to be vaccinated for flu because it takes about two weeks for immunity to develop and offer protection against flu. However, vaccination can be given any time during the flu season. Local health departments and private health care providers are expected to have adequate supplies of flu vaccine on hand for this year’s season. Kentuckians should contact their health care provider or local health department for more information.

"Getting the flu can be debilitating and sometimes life-threatening, so it’s extremely important to take simple preventive steps to avoid it. The best way to protect yourself and your family is to get a flu shot now," said Steve Davis, M.D., acting commissioner of DPH. “You should also follow the advice your mother 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.

Davis strongly urged anyone over six months old who hasn’t received a flu vaccine, particularly those in the groups at high risk for complications related to the flu, to check with local health departments or other providers.

The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices is now recommending flu vaccine for all individuals older than 6 months of age. People who should especially 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;
• 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. Healthy, non-pregnant people age 2-49 years can be vaccinated with either the flu shot or the nasal vaccine spray. 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. Approximately 23,000 deaths due to seasonal flu and its complications occur on average each year in the U.S., according to recently updated estimates from the CDC. However, 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 http://healthalerts.ky.gov.