Get your flu shot now, state health officials advise

One vaccination for all forms; kward1@herald-leader.comSeptember 8, 2010 

This year's flu season in Kentucky won't be like last year's: No scrambling for H1N1 vaccine, no long lines waiting for the shot.

This year, there is only one shot to cover all forms of the flu. Health officials are recommending that almost everyone from 6 months of age up get the injection.

The Kentucky Department for Public Health held a teleconference with reporters Tuesday about the upcoming flu season.

Unlike last year, when the H1N1 shot was free and patients paid for the standard flu shot, you'll have to pay for your all-points flu shot, which will be available through doctors' offices, health clinics, pharmacies and college health services, according to information from the teleconference.

Some locations, such as Walgreens, CVS and Rite Aid, already have the vaccine in stock.

The Lexington-Fayette County Health Department anticipates having the vaccine available beginning Thursday at its locations on Regency Road and Newtown Circle. However, spokesman Kevin Hall urged anyone planning to come in Thursday to verify that the shots are available by calling 288-7529. He said the health department will charge $25, and no appointment is necessary.

Shortages of flu vaccine are not anticipated this year.

State health officials recommend you get that shot soon, though. Even if you got your last flu shot a few months ago, you can still take this year's flu shot now, said Kentucky state epidemiologist Dr. Kraig Humbaugh.

Children under 8 years old who have never had a flu vaccine will need to get a shot and a booster.

There were 41 confirmed flu deaths in Kentucky during the 2009-10 flu season, said Humbaugh, and about 12,500 nationwide, the Centers for Disease Control estimates.

Humbaugh said in an interview that nearly half of the deaths in Kentucky were in younger adults from 25 to 49 years old.

That's in keeping with what the rest of the nation saw as well, and it differs from a typical flu season, when the elderly are most likely to die, Humbaugh said.

Last year's flu season was also atypical in that it peaked between September and November. Usually, flu peaks between January and March.

Nearly three-quarters of the flu-related deaths in Kentucky were in patients who had underlying medical conditions such as asthma and hypertension.

Humbaugh said the state does not usually track flu-related deaths, but it does not seem there was an increase in mortality during the H1N1 outbreak.

However, more people likely became ill with the flu, because it was a new virus and most people did not have antibodies to ward it off, he said.

The CDC estimates there were 61 million cases of H1N1 last season.

Of the samples sent to the state lab for testing, 99 percent of last season's flu cases in Kentucky turned out to be the H1N1 strain.

Humbaugh said H1N1 is likely to be the predominant flu strain again this year, but more people are expected to have immunity this season.

So far this year, Kentucky has seen no confirmed cases of the flu, but that doesn't mean that physicians and public health departments aren't seeing patients with flu-like symptoms.

"Flu is very unpredictable so we don't know what type of a year it will be," Humbaugh said.

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