Kentucky has recorded 26 flu-related deaths, mostly seniors, and 64 outbreaks at long-term-care facilities; get vaccinated!

Kentucky has reported 26 influenza-related deaths and 64 flu outbreaks in long-term care facilities as of Jan. 8 after five consecutive weeks of widespread flu activity, and is only halfway through the flu season, which runs from October through May, a top state health official said Thursday, Jan. 8.

And with the flu season in full swing and not expected to improve any time soon, Deputy Health Commissioner Kraig Humbaugh said it’s not too late to get a flu shot and “Practically everyone 6 months and older should get a flu vaccine.” He added, “Even though this year’s flu vaccine is not as well matched to covering the circulating strains as we would like to see, it is still the best way to prevent the flu.”

“The types of people that are likely to experience severe illness are the young, the elderly, pregnant women and people with chronic illness,” Humbaugh said. “That is why we especially want those folks to receive a flu vaccine each year.”

Last flu season, there were approximately 50 flu-related deaths. “All areas of the state have been affected by flu deaths and have been affected by the circulating flu this year,” Humbaugh said.

He noted that 19 of the 26 reported deaths were among people 65 and older. He encouraged seniors to get vaccinated because they have the highest risk of complications from the flu and are most likely to be hospitalized because of it. Typically,70 percent of seniors are vaccinated. Among the other reported deaths, two were children and five were aged 18 to 64.

Humbaugh also suggested that “the old advice that your mother gave you still applies” to stay healthy: Wash your hands well and often, don’t touch your mouth and nose unnecessarily, and avoid large crowds and contact with sick people. He reminded those who are sick to stay home from work or school and to sneeze into their elbow to avoid spreading the flu.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are urging doctors to prescribe more antiviral medication to help patients heal faster, saying in a news release, “Evidence from the current and previous influenza seasons suggests that they are severely underutilized.”

Humbaugh said, “People who are sick with the flu can potentially benefit from an anti-viral medication, such as Tamiflu or Rolenza.” He noted that the drugs must be prescribed by a health provider and work best if taken during within the first two days of illness. No widespread shortages of these antiviral medications have been reported.
Long-term care facilities across the state have reported 64 flu outbreaks, meaning they have one or more cases of flu in their facility, this flu season. Facilities are working with the state to determine how to control outbreaks, Humbaugh said. He encouraged those with the flu to stay away from these facilities and for the public to respect the rules put in place at these facilities to protect this most vulnerable population from the flu.

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