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Flu Now Widespread in Kentucky

Flu is now widespread across Kentucky, the Department for Public Health announced on Friday.

The department, which operates within the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, said that the widespread designation is being reported for the first time this flu season.

That means there have been increased flu cases or flu outbreaks in at least half of the regions in the state.

“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 Jeff Howard, M.D., commissioner of DPH. “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.”

Kentucky currently has 1,457 cases of of flu.

The health department said that the number of cases this year is close to the same number reported by this time last year. The Louisville area is hit the hardest with more than 550 cases.

Adequate supplies of flu vaccine are available for this year’s season. Vaccinations can be given any time during the flu season but providers are encouraged to administer the vaccine as soon as possible.

After the Department for Public Health released the news about the widespread designation, The Kentucky Medical Association, the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky and the Kentucky Foundation for Medical Care issued a joint statement.

"While just 38 percent of Kentucky adults and 43.5 percent of the state's children got their flu shots in 2016-2017(2), a recent Kentucky Health Issues Poll indicated that 54 percent of those surveyed reported getting a flu vaccine within the last 12 months. Although this data is encouraging, that still leaves almost half the population vulnerable to this potentially deadly virus," the organizations said.

"It's not too late to get a flu shot, which can protect you but also help prevent further spread to others. We're particularly concerned about infants who are too young to get the vaccine as well as those with compromised immune systems for whom exposure to the flu poses the greatest danger. But even otherwise healthy people are at risk of serious illness, hospitalization and death from the flu.

"The best advice is to get your shot as soon as possible."

-Staff report