Influenza (flu) activity in the state has increased from regional to widespread, the Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH) reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) this week.
Widespread activity is the highest level of flu activity, according to the DPH press release.
Widespread activity indicates increased flu-like activity or flu outbreaks in at least half of the regions in the state. The activity levels for states are tracked weekly as part of the CDC’s national flu surveillance system.
“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 Dr. Stephanie Mayfield, DPH commissioner.
“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,” she said.
The release states flu season can begin as early as October, which is when Kentucky reported its first cases this year, and last through May.
January is still a good time to get vaccinated against the flu because peak activity often comes in the early months of the year. Vaccination can be given any time during the flu season, and there is a plentiful vaccine supply this season.
Since it takes approximately two weeks for vaccine to become fully effective, Kentuckians should not delay vaccination, Mayfield said.
The best way to protect against the flu is to receive a flu vaccination, the agency said.
The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends flu vaccine for all individuals six months of age and older.
People who are especially encouraged to receive the flu vaccine because they may be at higher risk for complications or negative consequences include children age six months to 19 years, pregnant women, people 50 years old or older and people of any age with chronic health problems.
CDC has received a number of reports of severe respiratory illness among young and middle-aged adults infected with the influenza A (H1N1) pandemic strain, which first emerged in 2009.
Hospitalizations and some fatalities have been reported.
During the H1N1 pandemic, children and young adults tended to experience more serious illness, compared to older adults, although severe illness was seen in all age groups.
According to the release, healthy, non-pregnant people age 2-49 years old can be vaccinated with either the flu shot or the nasal vaccine spray.
An intradermal influenza vaccination uses a smaller needle and can be given to adults ages 18 through 64. Children younger than nine 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.
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 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.