FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) – Two children were among the 36 flu-related deaths reported in Kentucky this season, according to the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.
The average age of the other 34 who have died of the flu is 75 years old, cabinet officials said.
“These personal losses are a reminder for all of us that flu can be a serious illness, for young and old alike,” said Public Health Commissioner Dr. Jeffrey D. Howard. “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 to avoid contact with others.”
To protect the family’s privacy, the children’s hometown, county and gender are not being released.
Howard expressed deepest sympathies to the victims’ families.
The state health department is reporting “widespread” flu activity for the fourth consecutive week of this flu season. Widespread is the highest level of flu activity, which indicates increased flu-like activity or flu outbreaks in at least half of the regions in the state.
Flu vaccinations is the most effective protections against the flu, according to State Epidemiologist Dr. Jonathan Ballard.
“Recently, the CDC issued a health advisory advising clinicians that all hospitalized and high-risk persons with suspected influenza should be treated with antiviral medications and that benefits are observed even when treatment is initiated beyond two days of illness onset,” he said. “The flu season typically runs until late spring, so it’s not too late to get vaccinated.”
Health officials say it takes about two weeks following the administration of the vaccine for the recipient to develop protection. There are ample supplies throughout Kentucky. Vaccinations are available at local health departments, pharmacies, and medical providers. Many health plans cover the cost of the vaccine with no copay.
Another result of the harsh flu season is the number of influenza outbreaks in Kentucky’s long-term care facilities. There have already been 49 outbreaks reported this season.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers 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, 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 in the trash after you use it.
· Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
· Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
· Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu.
The traditional flu season lasts from October through May.