Flu level raised in Kentucky

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By Brandon Mattingly

According to a press release from the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, Kentucky Department for Public Health officials determined last week that influenza (flu) activity across the state has been upgraded from “regional” to “widespread.”

The widespread designation means that increased flu-like symptoms or flu outbreaks have been reported in at least half of the regions in the state.

“With current widespread flu activity being reported in Kentucky and across much of the nation, now is a good time to protect yourself and your family by getting vaccinated for flu,” said Stephanie Mayfield, M.D., commissioner of DPH in the release. “We are strongly urging anyone who hasn’t received a flu vaccine, particularly those at high risk for complications related to the flu, to check with their health care provider, local health department or pharmacy about vaccine availability.”

People who are particularly encouraged to receive the vaccination include:

- Children between 6 months and 19 years old

- Pregnant women

- Young and middle-aged adults for the 2013-14 flu season

- Healthcare workers

- Caregivers of or people who live with a person at high risk for complications from the flu

- Out-of-home caregivers of, or people who live with, children less than 6 months old

According to the report, the most widely reported strains of the virus circulating the area are protected against by this season’s vaccine.
The influenza A (H1N1) virus, which emerged in 2009, has also been responsible for a number of reports this year.

“In this flu season so far, H1N1 has continued to circulate and there have been reports nationally of severe illness in young and middle-aged adults,” said Dr. Mayfield. “We strongly recommend vaccination of children, teenagers and young to middle-aged adults, even if they are healthy, to prevent the spread of and complications from the flu this year.

All forms of flu vaccine available in Kentucky this year provide protection against the pandemic H1N1 influenza virus.”

A nasal vaccine spray option exists for healthy, non-pregnant individuals between 2 and 49 years old, as well as an intradermal vaccination that “uses a smaller needle” for adults 18-64. Children below the age of 9 years old who did not receive the vaccination last year are encouraged to receive a second dose four or more weeks after the first.

Visit your local health department or http://healthalerts.ky.gov for more information on influenza or the availability of the flu vaccine.