Flu cases being reported early this year

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By Calen McKinney

Officials say it’s coming earlier than normal this year, and residents should take precautions.

Though flu season typically doesn’t begin until October, state officials have already seen some confirmed cases of the illness.

According to a Cabinet for Health and Family Services news release, as a result, public health officials are urging Kentucky residents to get flu shots as soon as they become available.

This season’s first reported cases were confirmed in Boyd County two weeks ago, the release states. Flu vaccines are available to protect against the strain that was detected, the release states.

Though the flu season might be beginning a bit earlier than normal, officials say they can’t accurately predict if it will be severe or widespread.

Amy Tomlinson, public health services coordinator for the Lake Cumberland District Health Department, said it has been predicted that this year’s flu season in Kentucky will be by typical. She says there is a good way residents can prevent getting the flu.

“The best way to prevent the flu is to be vaccinated.”

Tomlinson said there haven’t been any confirmed cases of the flu in the Lake Cumberland District, to which Taylor County belongs.

She said flu vaccines are beginning to be shipped from manufacturers and will continue to arrive throughout the fall.

“Get vaccinated before flu season starts,” she said.

No flu shot clinics have been scheduled at the Taylor County Health Department yet, Tomlinson said, as departments across the state are in process of receiving their vaccines.

She said it is recommended that everyone 6 months old and older should get an annual flu shot.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, people who should especially receive the flu vaccine because they could be at higher risk for contracting the illness are children age 6 months to 19 years, pregnant women, people age 50 and older, people of any age with chronic health problems, people who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, health care workers, caregivers of or people who live with a person at high risk for complications from the flu and out-of-home caregivers of or people who live with children younger than 6 months old. The Cabinet for Health and Family Services release states that local health departments and private health care providers are expected to have adequate supplies of flu vaccines for this year’s season. Many providers already have some available.

“Getting the flu can be debilitating and sometimes life threatening, so it’s extremely important to take simple preventive steps to avoid it,” Dr. Steve Davis, acting commissioner of the state’s Department of Public Health, stated in the release.

“You should also follow the advice your mother gave you to prevent 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’re sick.”

Tomlinson agrees.

“Avoid close contact. Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick, too,” she said. “If possible, stay home from work, school and errands when you are sick. You will help prevent others from catching your illness.”

Tomlinson said it’s also important that people cover their mouth and nose with a tissue when sneezing. She said people should also clean their hands.

“Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub,” she said.

Tomlinson said it’s important that those who are feeling sick not touch their eyes, nose or mouth.

“Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose or mouth,” she said.

Symptoms of the flu, which is very contagious, according to the CDC, include fever, headache, cough, sore throat, runny nose, sneezing and body aches.

The CDC states that there are about 23,000 deaths because of the flu illness and its complications each year in the United States. For more information about the flu, visit www.cdc.gov/flu.