Flu Reaches Epidemic Level in Kentucky, 8 Die in NKY

Influenza activity in Kentucky reached epidemic level this week - and Northern Kentucky is feeling the effects.

The Kentucky Department for Public Health announced that this is the sixth straight week of widespread flu activity - which is the highest level of flu activity and indicates increased flu-like activity or flu outbreaks in at least half of the regions in the state.

“Widespread influenza activity means that Kentuckians are likely to encounter one or more persons shedding influenza virus at work, at school, while shopping, while traveling, at athletic or entertainment events, and in places of worship,” said Dr. Jeffrey D. Howard, the acting Department for Public Health Commissioner . “A person who will develop influenza illness actually can transmit the virus to other persons beginning one day before their illness begins.”

In Northern Kentucky, more than 2,700 cases of flu have been reported locally through January 20. Eight adults have died, the Northern Kentucky Health Department reported.

The health department still recommends being vaccinated, saying it's not too late.  

“Influenza can be particularly risky for certain groups, including older adults and other individuals in long-term care facilities,” said Dr. Lynne M. Saddler, District Director of Health. “If you or someone in your household has been ill with flu-like symptoms, including fever and cough, please do NOT visit family and friends in nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, hospitals or other health care facilities. Individuals who work in such facilities should also be sure to stay home when sick. We have already seen several outbreaks of flu in these types of facilities, and we need to take steps to prevent additional outbreaks.”

Other precautions include covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, avoiding close contact with sick people, staying home when sick, and avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.

Hand-washing is also encouraged.

“The most predictable thing about flu is that it’s unpredictable,” said Saddler. “It’s not possible to say in advance precisely when the 2017-2018 flu season will peak or end, how severe it will be, or what viruses will circulate over the course of the flu season. Thus, it’s important to take steps to protect yourself and those you care about.”

Local information about the flu is updated here.

The most common flu type identified in Kentucky and in 78 percent of the 65 influenza-associated deaths this season is influenza A. Of the deaths so far, 7 percent have occurred in previously healthy individuals with no reported risk factors for severe illness. Healthy persons with influenza also will usually miss three to five days of work, school, or other usual activities, and sometimes may miss seven to 10 days.

“Flu vaccination is the most effective protection against flu. We especially recommend that all healthy Kentuckians aged six months and older be vaccinated. The flu season typically runs until late spring so it is not too late to get vaccinated,” said Dr. Jonathan Ballard, the Department for Public Health’s State Epidemiologist.

It takes about two weeks following the administration of the vaccine for the recipient to develop protection from the flu. There are ample supplies available throughout the state. Vaccinations are available at Kentucky’s local health departments, pharmacies, and medical providers. Many health plans cover the cost of the vaccine with no copay.

-Staff report