UKHealthCare is restricting hospital visitors because of the flu.
UK Chandler Hospital, Kentucky Children's Hospital, Good Samaritan Hospital and Eastern State Hospital are affected by the restrictions announced Monday as the state reports widespread flu.
There have been 18 reported cases of the flu in Fayette County, according to the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department. There were four reported cases at this time last year.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Kentucky is among 29 states reporting widespread flu. Last year at this time four states had reported widespread flu.
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The restrictions at UKHealthCare include: No visitors under the age of 12; no visitors with flu-like symptoms; two visitors in a patient's room at one time; masks or other protective clothing may be required during visits.
Other restrictions may be in place in special care units like oncology. Some exceptions may be made on a case by case basis.
Flu symptoms can include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Flu antiviral drugs are available and work best for treatment when they are started within two days of getting sick.
The flu strain changes from year to year and health officials study the most common strains from the previous year to formulate the most effective vaccine. In eight out of 10 years, health officials manage to create a good match between the most common strains of the flu and the vaccines most widely available, said Dr. Kraig Humbaugh, state epidemiologist of the Kentucky Department for Public Health.
This year there has been a mismatch in some strains of the flu, he said.
But, he said, "I would still say the vaccine is the best tool we have."
Although flu is often transmitted via the close interaction of students at school, the holiday break isn't expected to help reduce flu levels significantly, he said. People will just be gathering with friends and family and sharing germs that way.
In addition to urging people to get the flu vaccine, which is available through local health departments and through many pharmacy chains, health department spokesman Kevin Hall encouraged thoroughly washing hands for 30 to 40 seconds as a preventive measure. Hall and Humbaugh also encouraged people to stay home from work or school if they are sick.