FRANKFORT (KT) — State public health officials are encouraging Kentuckians to get vaccinated against the flu as the holiday season is approaching.
“People will be traveling and families will gather together, increasing the potential for exposure to the flu,” said Dr. Angela Dearinger, Commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Public Health. “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.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends flu vaccine for all everyone six months of age and older. People who are strongly encouraged to receive the flu vaccine because they may be at higher risk for complications or negative consequences include:
• Children age six months through 59 months (less than 5 years).
• Women who are or will be pregnant during the influenza season.
• Persons 50 years of age or older.
• Persons with extreme obesity (Body Mass Index of 40 or greater).
• Residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.
• Household contacts (including children) and caregivers of young children and adults over 50.
• Household contacts and caregivers of people who live with someone at high-risk for flu complications.
• Health care workers, including physicians, nurses, and other workers in inpatient and outpatient-care settings, medical emergency-response workers (e.g., paramedics and emergency medical technicians), employees of nursing home and long-term care facilities who have contact with patients or residents, and students in these professions who will have contact with patients.
Public health officials are reporting 384 laboratory-confirmed flu cases in regions across the state since Aug. 4.
The flu virus can cause fever, headache, cough, sore throat, runny nose, sneezing and body aches. Flu can be very contagious. It takes about two weeks for the vaccine to become fully effective, so it is very important to get the flu shot as soon as possible.
Vaccination can be given any time during the flu season, but providers are encouraged to administer the vaccine as soon as possible. Medicaid, Medicare and most private health insurance providers cover flu vaccination as a preventive service.
The flu vaccine is especially important in light of the longest flu season the nation experienced last year. The CDC reports that more than 647,000 flu-related hospitalizations occurred and more than 61,000 people died as a result of the flu. In Kentucky, there were 194 flu-related deaths, two of which were children.
"Getting the flu can be debilitating and sometimes life-threatening," added Dearinger. “Vaccination is the best tool we have to prevent the flu. It is also extremely important to take simple preventive steps to avoid the flu and other illnesses that tend to circulate at this time of year – wash your hands frequently, cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze and stay home when you are sick.”