Health & Medicine

Flu not widespread but shots still the best prevention

It's the height of the flu season, but so far Kentuckians appear to be dodging the worst of it.

Earlier this week state officials upgraded the status of flu cases reported across the commonwealth from the lowest of four levels — sporadic — to the next level — localized. That means flu cases are becoming clustered in isolated regions.

Although the flu rate is trailing that of last year, health officials urge caution and recommend flu shots as the best prevention.

"We are not all the way through the flu season yet," said Dr. Craig Humbaugh, Kentucky state epidemiologist. "This is an excellent time for those who have procrastinated to get their flu shot."

It usually takes 10 to 14 days for a flu shot to provide the best protection, and the official flu season usually runs through the end of April, Humbaugh said.

So far this flu season there have been 30 reported cases of flu in Fayette County, compared to 88 last year, said Kevin Hall, spokesman for the Lexington Fayette-County Health Department.

It's still largely a mystery why some years there are more flu cases than others, said Humbaugh.

"We really don't know why some years are lighter than others," he said.

But each year some parts of the population are hit harder by the flu than others, he said. Of the 30 cases in Fayette County, 23 have been in children, Hall said.

Both Hall and Humbaugh urge people to get vaccines for themselves and their families.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention had recommended that certain groups, particularly the elderly and those with chronic health conditions, get annual flu shots. Now, Humbaugh said, the recommendation is that everyone over 6 months old should get a flu shot each year.

Often people don't heed the warning, he said. Only about 40 percent of adults and 51 percent of children in Kentucky get flu shots. He'd like to see that change.

"We would love to see everybody be vaccinated," he said. "We certainly have room to grow and improve."