The Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH) reported the first two positive influenza cases this week, indicating the presence of flu in Kentucky. The cases were from Henderson and Jefferson Counties.
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 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 about influenza vaccination.
“Getting the flu can be debilitating and sometimes life-threatening, and vaccination is the best tool we have to prevent illness,” said Stephanie Mayfield, M.D., commissioner of DPH. “Kentuckians can also reduce the risk for influenza by following a few simple steps. You should 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 Kentucky Department for Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommend 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 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 have a new flu vaccination each season for optimal protection. 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. A variety of vaccine options are available, so many consumers have a choice about how they get vaccinated. All of the vaccine formulations provide coverage for flu
strains that are anticipated to circulating during this season. Almost everyone 6 months or older can receive the traditional, injectable shot. Healthy, non-pregnant people age 2-49 years also have the option of being vaccinated with the nasal vaccine spray. Intradermal vaccination, in which a smaller needle is used to inject vaccine under the skin rather than into the muscle, is approved for people 18 through 64 years of age. And high dose flu vaccine is again available as an option for persons aged 65 years and older. A higher dose of antigen in that vaccine is supposed to provide a stronger immune response and may provide better protection against the flu.
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. An average of 23,000 deaths due to seasonal flu and its complications occur each year in the U.S., according to 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.
In addition to flu vaccine, DPH strongly encourages all adults 65 or older and others in high risk groups for invasive pneumococcal disease (e.g., persons with chronic pulmonary disease, asthma, chronic heart disease, diabetes, chronic renal disease, chronic liver disease, and smokers aged 19 through 64 years) to ask their health care provider about the pneumococcal vaccine. This vaccine can help prevent a type of pneumonia, one of the flu’s most serious and potentially deadly complications.
“The pneumococcal vaccine is extremely safe, effective, can be taken at any time of year and is currently available in an adequate supply,” Mayfield said.
Caused by bacteria, pneumococcal disease can result in serious pneumonia, meningitis or blood infections. According to the CDC, pneumococcal disease kills more people in the U.S. each year than all other vaccine-preventable diseases combined. 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.