The Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH) is reporting the first positive lab-confirmed influenza case this week, indicating the presence of flu circulating in Kentucky. The case was from Jefferson County.
DPH officials are reporting the results to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as part of statewide flu surveillance efforts. Kentucky’s flu activity will be classified as “sporadic,” the lowest level indicating flu activity.
The flu season in Kentucky typically begins in October or November. Kentuckians are encouraged to get a flu vaccine as soon as their health provider has it in stock, 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, and many providers already have some supplies of vaccine. Additional vaccine shipments should be arriving over the next few weeks. Kentuckians should contact their health care provider or local health department for more information.
"Getting the flu can be debilitating and sometimes life-threatening, and vaccination is the best tool we have to prevent illness. It’s also extremely important to take simple preventive steps to avoid it," said Stephanie Mayfield, M.D., 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.”
The best way to protect against the flu is to receive a flu vaccination. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends flu vaccine for all individuals more 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 aged 6 months through 18 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 aged 2 through 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 previous seasonal flu vaccination should receive a second dose four or more weeks after their first vaccination. CDC is recommending that children ages 2 through 8 years of age receive the nasal spray formulation this year, as new evidence suggests that this type of vaccine is more effective for this age group. However, if the nasal spray is not available, parents should get the traditional injection for their child and not delay flu vaccination.
High dose flu vaccine is available for persons aged 65 years and older this year. A higher dose of antigen in the vaccine is designed to create a stronger immune response and provide better protection against the flu.
In addition to flu vaccine, DPH strongly encourages all adults 65 years and older and others in high risk groups to ask their health care provider about the pneumococcal vaccines. These vaccines can help prevent a type of pneumonia, one of the flu’s most serious and potentially deadly complications. The CDC now recommends that adults 65 years or older receive the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13, Prevnar-13) in addition to the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23, Pneumovax-23). Getting both vaccines offers the best protection against pneumococcal disease. Between 20,000 and 40,000 deaths are attributed to flu and pneumonia nationally each year, with more than 90 percent of those deaths occurring in people age 65 and older.
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. For more information on influenza or the availability of flu vaccine, please contact your local health department or visit http://healthalerts.ky.gov.