Health & Medicine

H1N1 cases decline, but number remains high

While the number of flu cases in Kentucky is down from a peak a few weeks ago, the H1N1 virus is still widespread.

And the levels of H1N1 continue to be greater than what is normally experienced at the height of the regular flu season in January and February, Dr. William D. Hacker, director of the state Department of Public Health, said Monday during a flu-update meeting with the media.

Despite crowded stores and tightly packed family gatherings, the holiday season probably won't push those numbers back up, he said. Typically, flu levels drop when school isn't in session, he said.

And if this pandemic follows the pattern of others, there will be several more peaks before flu activity permanently slows, he said.

Hacker suggested people continue to try to get vaccinated. That is especially important for those who fall into high-risk groups, including pregnant women, people with chronic illness and young people between the ages of 6 months and 25 years.

Some 622,000 doses of the vaccine have been delivered to Kentucky. The vaccine is supplied by the federal government to the state, which divides it among health departments based on population. Health departments then decide the best way to serve the communities. Some are having mass clinics, others are concentrating on vaccinating schoolchildren.

Some vaccine is available through doctors' offices or private clinics. Shots are generally free, but private providers might charge a small fee. So far, 29 Kentuckians have died of the H1N1 virus.

The best protection against catching the disease, aside from the vaccine, is to use common-sense measures, such as frequent hand washing and staying away from people who are sick.

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