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Kentucky's First Culture-Confirmed Influenza Case Reported

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH) officials are urging Kentuckians to get a flu vaccination after the season's first culture-confirmed case of influenza was reported by the State Public Health Laboratory this week. The case was from Adair 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, and this year there is a plentiful vaccine supply.

"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 William Hacker, 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."

Hacker strongly urged anyone 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' (ACIP) updated recommendations for this year's flu season include:

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• Annual vaccination of all children age 6 months-18 years.

• Children age 6 months through 4 years continue to be a primary focus of yearly vaccination efforts because these children are at a higher risk for flu complications compared with older children.

• Children age 6 months to 8 years should receive two doses of vaccine if they have not been vaccinated previously.

• Healthy, non-pregnant people age 2 to 49 years can receive either the flu shot or the nasal vaccine spray.

Immunization is also strongly recommended to protect Kentuckians 65 and older and those with a chronic disease such as heart disease, cancer, asthma or diabetes. Healthy individuals 50 to 65 are also strongly encouraged to receive the flu vaccine.

Infection with the flu virus can cause fever, headache, cough, sore throat, runny nose, sneezing and body aches. Flu is responsible for approximately 200,000 hospitalizations and 36,000 deaths a year in the U.S.

In addition to flu vaccine, DPH strongly encourages all adults 65 or older and others in high risk groups 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.