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The state Department for Public Health is pushing Kentuckians to get their flu shots, since the holiday season is approaching.
“People will be traveling and families will gather together, increasing the potential for exposure to the flu,” said Dr. Angela Dearinger, the state health 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 local health departments or other providers.”
The health department has reported 384 laboratory-confirmed flu cases across the state since Aug. 4.
“Flu can be very contagious,” the department noted in a press release. “It takes about two weeks for the vaccine to become fully effective, so it is very important to get the flu shot as soon as possible.”
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends flu shots for everyone six months of age and older. People who are strongly encouraged to get a shot because they may be at higher risk for complications or negative consequences include:
- Children aged six months through 59 months (less than 5 years)
- Women who are or will be pregnant during the influenza season
- Persons 50 years of age or older
- Persons with extreme obesity (body mass index of 40 or greater)
- Persons aged six months and older with chronic health problems
- Residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
- Household contacts (including children) and caregivers of children less than five years old, particularly contacts of children less than six months old and adults 50 and older
- Household contacts and caregivers or people who live with a person at high-risk for complications from the flu
- Health-care workers, including physicians, nurses, and other workers in inpatient and outpatient-care settings, medical emergency-response workers such as paramedics and emergency medical technicians), employees of nursing home and long-term care facilities who have contact with patients or residents, and students in these professions who will have contact with patients
The health department said getting vaccinated is especially important because the U.S. has its longest flu season ever last year, with more than 647,000 flu-related hospitalizations and more than 61,000 people deaths. Kentucky had 194 flu-related deaths, including two children.
The health department reports flu activity to the CDC. The report is updated on Fridays and is posted online at https://healthalerts.ky.gov/Pages/FluActivity.aspx.”The report consists of laboratory-confirmed cases of influenza that are defined by molecular virus testing and positive virus culture test results,” the release says. “Rapid-positive influenza tests are not included in this report, but are used as an indicator of flu-like illness circulating across the state.”