Flu is at epidemic level across state

Posted January 31, 2018 at 9:26 am

A serious, sometimes deadly strain of the flu virus reached the epidemic level, state officials reported last Wednesday, January 24.

“Widespread influenza activity means that Kentuckians are more likely to encounter one or more persons spreading influenza virus at work, at school, while shopping, while traveling, at athletic and entertainment events, and in places of worship,” said acting Department of Public Health Commissioner Jeffrey D. Howard in a news release issued to news outlets.

In Clinton County, residents of all ages have been battling the flu and flu like illnesses for several weeks now, with all ages being affected. At one point two weeks ago, classes in Clinton County schools were dismissed due to high absentee rates that were attributed to the flu and flu-like symptoms.

“A person who will develop influenza illness actually can transmit the virus to other persons beginning one day before their illness begins.”

Howard stressed that the flu virus can affect generally healthy Kentuckians as well as those in higher risk categories.

Health officials invite the public to participate in a Facebook Live discussion about the flu on the CHFS Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/kychfs/ Thursday night at 6 p.m. eastern, 5 p.m. central. You can submit flu questions beforehand to: chfs.communications@ky.gov or post your question in the comments section during the event.

As of last week, Kentucky was in the sixth consecutive week of widespread flu activity, which is the highest level of flu activity and indicates flu-like activity or flu outbreaks in at least one half of the regions in the state,” Howard said.

The state (as of January 24) had reported 65 influenza associated deaths this season, which 78 percent were identified as influenza A. Of those deaths, seven percent occurred in previously healthy individuals with no reported risk factors for severe illness.

Healthy individuals with influenza will usually miss three to five days of work, school, or other usual activities, and sometimes may miss seven to 10 days. Infection with the flu virus can cause fever, headache, cough, sore throat, runny nose, sneezing and body aches.

“Pneumonia, bacterial stream infections and sepsis are examples of serious influenza related complications that may require hospitalization and sometimes result in death of healthy people with no known risk factors for serious illness,” said state Department for Public Health epidemiologist Jonathan Ballard.

Ballard said flu vaccination is “the most effective protection against flu.”

“We especially recommend that all healthy Kentuckians aged six and older be vaccinated,” he said. “The flu season typically runs until late spring so it is not too late to get vaccinated.”

The state said it takes about two weeks following the administration of the vaccine for the recipient to develop protection from the flu. There are ample supplies of vaccine available throughout the state.

Those who develop flu symptoms should seek medical advice to determine if they should be treated with an antiviral drug, which could shorten the course of the illness or reduce its severity.

“Recently, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued a health advisory recommending antiviral treatment to all hospitalized and high-risk persons with suspected influenza and that benefits of antiviral medications are observed when treatment is initiated beyond two days of illness onset,” said Ballard.

Influenza virus can also directly infect the heart and can cause severe and potentially fatal acute changes in the heart’s rhythm and function.

People at high risk of complications from flu include children younger than five years (especially younger than two years), adults aged 65 and older, pregnant women (and women up to two weeks postpartum), residents of nursing homes and other long-term facilities, and persons with chronic illnesses such as asthma and chronic respiratory illnesses, neurological or neuro-developmental conditions, heart disease, blood disorders (such as sickle cell disease), diabetes, kidney and liver disorders, weakened immune systems due to diseases like cancer or medications, persons younger than 19 years who are recovering from long-term aspirin therapy and people with extreme obesity (body mass index of 40 or more.)

The CDC offers these tips:

* Try to avoid contact with sick people.

* While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible.

* If you are sick with flu-like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or other necessities.

* Cover nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and throw tissue in trash after use.

* Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water is not available, use alcohol-based hand rub.

* Avoid touching eyes, nose and throat.

* Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu.