Health Education Coordinator Bebby Lewis of the Pennyrile Area Health Department said that by March 8, the Center for Disease Control reported 42 states, including Kentucky report widespread flu activity. She said that the CDC defines widespread activity as greater than 50 percent of the population report a diagnosis of the flu, or show symptoms of the disease.
“As far as this year’s vaccination effort goes, every year the Advisory Commission on Immunization Practices reports on flu in other parts of the world. They estimate what strain of the flue will be active in North America. When they are spot on, the vaccination protects 90 percent of the time. There are cousins of the virus and mutations, so even if they are not right on, the vaccine can protect an estimated 60 percent of vaccine recipients or better.”
Lewis said that she did not have figures of vaccinated persons contracting the flu this year, though reported that since March 8, the number of cases reported has declined. “It’s still not too late for a flu shot. We see the season run from November sometimes into May. If you have compromised immunity, are elderly, prone to respiratory illness or are age nine or under, we recommend flu shots.”
Lewis said that unlike a cold, influenza might cause sudden illness. Symptoms include fever, headache, extreme fatigue, a dry cough, body aches, nasal congestion and sore throats.
“Proper hygiene is fundamental to preventing flu,” said Lewis. “Hand washing is the Number One way to protect yourself, so do it thoroughly and often. Get enough sleep to allow your immune system to stat strong. Eat right, including fruits and vegetables. Stay home if you are sick. Use hand sanitizer if you don’t have access to hand washing facilities. Disinfect shared surfaces, including telephones, keyboards, doorknobs, coffee pot handles and those types of items. Stay out of crowds during the height of the season.”