Flu season in full swing

Flu season is upon us, and Kentucky is suffering through a large number of influenza cases causing severe illness, hospitalization and in some cases, death.

According to the Kentucky Department for Public Health (KDPH), as of Jan. 20 there were approximately 3,800 confirmed cases of influenza confirmed over the past several weeks. There have been more than 60 flu-related deaths in Kentucky this flu season so far.

According to Harlan ARH Hospital Community and Patient Advocate Mark Bell, this year’s flu season has hit Harlan hard. The most recent statistics available for this article show Harlan ARH has confirmed 292 cases of the flu. However, these numbers only reflect cases confirmed by ARH, and do not take into account cases confirmed at other facilities.

“Thirteen of those were hospitalized,” Bell said. “Last week, we tested 192 people and we had 56 positive cases and five hospitalizations.”

Bell explained there are two different flu types this season, type A and type B, with type A being the most severe.

Bell said a large number of type A flu is being reported this season.

“This past week, of the 56 tests that were positive, 45 of them were type A,” Bell said.

It is recommended anybody exhibiting flu symptoms should see a doctor and be tested.

“It’s not too late for a flu shot,” Bell said. “It does improve your chances (of not contracting influenza) and your symptoms tend to be less severe.”

According to the KDPH website, the primary method of preventing influenza is by obtaining the influenza vaccine each year. During the influenza season, avoid exposure to others who are sick with influenza and cold symptoms as much as possible. Get optimal amounts of rest and exercise, and eat a well-balanced, nutritious diet daily. One of the simplest ways to prevent illness is to wash your hands before meals, and especially after encounters with those who are sick. Avoid touching your face, nose, eyes and mouth, which are points of entry for germs. If you become sick with influenza, prevent spreading the virus to others by staying home, covering coughs and sneezes with tissues, and immediately disposing of tissues properly, followed by washing your hands. Remember to drink plenty of fluids to avoid becoming dehydrated.

More information can be found at the Kentucky Department of Public Health website at http://chfs.ky.gov/dph/InfluenzaFacts.htm