Health and Family Services Cabinet
DPH Reminds Public There is Still Time to Get Flu, Pneumonia Vaccinations
FRANKFORT, KY. (Feb. 3, 2006) Although Kentucky’s influenza (flu) season has been milder than in recent years, its peak is still approaching. As of Jan. 21, there were only 12 confirmed cases of flu reported in Kentucky as opposed to the 96 confirmed cases at the same time last year. Last year’s flu season did not peak until late February or early March. The peak can occur as late as April.
The opportunity to be vaccinated is still available. About two weeks after vaccination, antibodies develop that protect against flu virus infection. Infection with the flu virus can cause fever, headache, cough, sore throat, runny nose, sneezing and body aches, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Infants and the elderly population are most at risk of serious illness, hospitalization or death from the flu. Immunization is particularly recommended to protect Kentuckians 65 and older; all children six months to 23 months; and individuals with a chronic disease such as heart disease, cancer, asthma or diabetes. Healthy individuals 50 to 64 also are strongly recommended to receive flu immunizations. An annual flu vaccine (either the flu shot or the nasal-spray flu vaccine) is the best way to reduce the chances of getting the flu. Please contact your local health department or your primary care provider to inquire about vaccine availablility.
Other good health habits that can help prevent the spread of flu and other respiratory viruses include:
- Wash your hands often to help protect you from germs.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose or mouth.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.
- If possible, stay home from work, school and errands when you are sick. You will help prevent others from catching your illness.
Flu is responsible for approximately 200,000 hospitalizations and 36,000 deaths a year in the United States. While it is a serious virus, it is also a preventable virus.
In addition to flu vaccine, the Department for Public Health strongly encourages all adults 65 or older and others in high risk groups to ask their health care provider about the pneumoccal vaccine. This vaccine can help prevent pneumonia, one of the flu’s most serious and potentially deadly complications.
“The pneumococcal vaccine is extremely safe, effective, can be taken at any time of year and is currently available in an adequate supply,” said William Hacker, M.D., public health commissioner.
Pneumococcal disease is caused by bacteria and can result in serious pneumonia, meningitis or blood infections. According to the CDC, pneumococcal disease kills more people in the U.S. each year than all other vaccine-preventable diseases combined. Between 20,000 and 40,000 deaths are attributed to flu and pneumonia nationally each year, with more than 90 percent of those deaths occurring in people age 65 and older.
For more information on influenza disease or the availability of flu immunizations, please contact your local health department or visit the Kentucky Department for Public Health’s flu Web site at http://www.chfs.ky.gov/dph/Influenza.htm.