First pediatric flu deaths for the season reported in Kentucky

Of the 36 flu-related deaths reported in Kentucky this season, two victims were children, according to the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

The average age of the other 34 people who have died of the flu this season is 75 years old, cabinet officials said.

“We extend our deepest sympathies to the families. These personal losses are a reminder for all of us that flu can be a serious illness, for young and old alike,” said Dr. Jeffrey D. Howard, the acting commissioner of the state Department for Public Health. “We strongly encourage people to protect themselves, particularly children 6 months and older and those people at high risk for complications related to the flu. Stay at home if they have the flu or flu-like symptoms and avoid contact with others.”

For the fourth consecutive week, the state health department is reporting “widespread” flu activity, indicating flu-like activity or outbreaks in at least half of the regions in the state. There have been 49 cases of influenza reported in Kentucky’s long-term care centers, the department reported.

The most common flu strain identified in Kentucky is Influenza A, said Dr. Jonathan Ballard, the state epidemiologist. The flu season typically runs until late spring, so it’s not too late to get vaccinated, Ballard said.

Following a vaccination, it takes about two weeks for the recipient to develop protection from the flu, according to the health department. Vaccinations are available at Kentucky’s local health departments, pharmacies and medical providers, and many health plans cover the cost of the vaccine with no copay.

The symptoms for the flu include fever, chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches and fatigue, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cold symptoms are usually more mild than symptoms of flu, the CDC said.

The CDC advises these tips to stop the spread of germs:

▪  Try to avoid close contact with sick people.

▪  While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.

▪  If you are sick with flu-like illness, the CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone for 24 hours without the use of a fever-reducing medicine).

▪  Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue into the trash.

▪  Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water aren’t available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.

▪  Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

▪  Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that might be contaminated with germs like the flu.

Mike Stunson: 859-231-1324, @mike_stunson