State health officials say flu activity widespread

FRANKFORT, Ky. – Kentucky health officials are reporting widespread flu activity in the state for the first time during the current flu season.

The Department for Public Health, part of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, says widespread is the highest level of flu activity, which indicates increased flu cases or flu outbreaks in at least half of the state’s regions.

“We strongly encourage anyone who hasn’t received a flu vaccine, particularly children six months and older and those people at high risk for complications related to the flu, to get a flu shot,” said Public Health Commissioner Dr. Jeff Howard. “Also remember to cover your cough and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth because germs are spread this way. Be sure to frequently wash your hands with soap and water and stay home if you are sick with flu-like illness.”

In the weekly report issued on Friday, Kentucky currently is reporting 1,457 laboratory-confirmed cases of flu. The report consists of laboratory-confirmed cases of influenza that are defined by molecular virus testing and positive virus culture test results.

The number of flu cases to date this season is comparable to the number of cases at the same time last season, which was 1,411).

One of the hardest hit areas currently is Louisville Metro, which has confirmed more than 550 cases recently. Overall, approximately 882 cases have been confirmed in Louisville Metro this flu season, which is up from just 179 cases confirmed at the same time in the previous flu season.

The deaths of four adults and one child have been linked to the flu in Kentucky this flu season. At this time in the last flu season Kentucky had a dozen flu-related deaths, all adults. During the entire flu season there were 333 flu-related deaths in Kentucky last year, five of whom were children.

Health officials added the flu vaccine is especially important in light of the severe season experienced last year across the United States. The CDC reports that more than 900,000 flu-related hospitalizations occurred and more than 80,000 people died as a result of flu. Of the pediatric flu deaths reported in last year’s season, more than one-third of these occurred among healthy children between the ages of 6 months and 4 years.

Symptoms of the flu include fever, headache, cough, sore throat, runny nose, sneezing and body aches. The flu can be very contagious. For more information on influenza or the availability of flu vaccine, Kentuckians should contact their primary care medical provider or local health department.