Health and Family Services Cabinet
State's First Culture-Confirmed Influenza Case Reported
FRANKFORT, Ky. (Nov. 16, 2007) – Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH) officials are urging Kentuckians to get a flu vaccination after the first culture-confirmed case of influenza was reported by the State Public Health Laboratory this week. The case was in Fayette County.
DPH is reporting the results to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as part of statewide flu surveillance efforts. Kentucky’s flu activity is currently classified as "sporadic," the lowest level of flu activity. The flu season can begin as early as October and last through May and usually peaks between January and March. October and November are good months to be vaccinated for flu because it takes about two weeks for immunity to develop and offer protection against flu. However, vaccination can be given any time during the flu season, and this year there is a plentiful vaccine supply.
"Getting the flu can be debilitating and sometimes life-threatening, so it’s extremely important to take simple preventive steps to avoid it. The best way to protect yourself and your family is to get a flu shot now," said William Hacker, M.D., commissioner of DPH and acting undersecretary for health at the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. “You should follow the advice your mother gave you to prevent flu and other illnesses that tend to circulate at this time of year - wash your hands frequently, cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze, and stay home when you’re sick.”
Hacker strongly urged anyone who hasn’t received a flu vaccine, particularly those in the groups at high risk for complications related to the flu, to check with local health departments or other providers.
“As the holidays approach, people will be traveling and families will gather together. Therefore, the potential for exposure to flu in the coming weeks is increased,” said Hacker. “However, there is still time to become protected if Kentuckians seek flu shots now.”
Annual influenza vaccinations are particularly recommended for: all children ages 6-59 months (6 months to 4 years of age); adults 65 or older; people ages 2-64 with chronic medical conditions such as heart disease, cancer, asthma or diabetes; women who will be pregnant during flu season; residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities; children 6 months to 18 years old on chronic aspirin therapy; health care workers; household contacts of children less than 6 months old; and caregivers of people with medical conditions that put them at higher risk for severe complications from the flu. Healthy individuals ages 50 to 64 are also strongly recommended to receive flu immunizations.
Flu is responsible for approximately 200,000 hospitalizations and 36,000 deaths a year in the United States. While it can be a serious disease, influenza is preventable. Infection with the flu virus can cause fever, headache, cough, sore throat, runny nose, sneezing and body aches, according to the CDC. Infants and the elderly are most at risk of serious illness, hospitalization or death from the flu.
In addition to flu vaccine, DPH strongly encourages all adults 65 or older and others in high risk groups to ask their health care provider about the pneumococcal vaccine. This vaccine can help prevent a type of 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,” Hacker said.
Caused by bacteria, pneumococcal disease 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 flu or the availability of flu immunizations, please contact your local health department or visit DPH’s flu Web site at http://www.chfs.ky.gov/dph/Influenza.htm.