Flu widespread in Kentucky, new rating shows

bestep@herald-leader.comDecember 12, 2012 

Flu activity in Kentucky has increased to widespread levels, state health officials announced Wednesday.

Widespread is the highest level of flu activity, according to a news release from the Kentucky Department for Public Health.

The state had reported regional flu activity earlier. The higher classification means there has been increased flu-like activity or flu outbreaks in at least half the regions of the state, according to the news release.

State health Commissioner Stephanie Mayfield said Kentuckians should be vaccinated to protect against getting the flu.

"As the holidays approach, people will be traveling and families will gather together, increasing the potential for exposure to the flu," Mayfield said in the release. "We are strongly urging anyone who hasn't received a flu vaccine, particularly those at high risk for complications related to the flu, to check with local health departments or other providers."

There is a plentiful supply of flu vaccine this year, according to the release.

The flu season can begin as early as October and last through May. It usually peaks between January and March.

Developing immunity takes about two weeks after the shot is given.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a flu shot for everyone age 6 months and older.

Some people are particularly at risk from the flu, according to the release. They are children age 6 months to 19 years; pregnant women; people age 50 or older; people of any age with chronic health problems; people who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities; health care workers; people who provide care for or live with a person at high risk for complications from the flu; people who care for or live with children less than 6 months old.

In addition to getting a flu shot, the state Department for Public Health also strongly urges people 65 and older to check with a doctor about getting pneumococcal vaccine. The shot can help prevent a type of pneumonia, which is the most serious complication of the flu.

Pneumococcal disease, which is caused by bacteria, can result in serious pneumonia, meningitis or blood infections.

The CDC says pneumococcal disease kills more people in the United States each year than all other diseases that can be prevented by vaccines combined.

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