Health

Health officials say flu activity in Kentucky is now widespread with 1,457 cases so far in the 2018-19 season. The most cases have been reported in Jefferson County, where just last week, 570 people were diagnosed with the flu. That’s more than double from the previous week.

With the flu spreading rapidly, health officials are urging people to get vaccinated. Dave Langdon, public information officer for the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness, said there have been five flu-related deaths in Kentucky this season — one child and four adults.  

“The flu can have very serious consequences, and it is a disease that’s preventable by vaccination, or at least can be mitigated very much by vaccination,” Langdon said. “So if you haven’t gotten a shot, please get one.

According to a state influenza surveillance report, most flu cases have been found in children under the age of 10, followed by children and young adults between ages 11-20. In Jefferson County, the average age of a person diagnosed with the flu is 22 years old.

Jeff Howard, the commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Public Health, said the state is particularly concerned about infants under six months and older adults.

“We’re particularly concerned about infants who are too young to get the vaccine as well as those with compromised immune systems for whom exposure to the flu poses the greatest danger,” Howard said in a news release. “But even otherwise healthy people are at risk of serious illness, hospitalization and death from the flu.

Symptoms of the flu include a fever that lasts for three to four days, aches and chills, fatigue, headache and cough.

Langdon said the recent uptick in cases is likely due to recent holiday gatherings because the virus is so easily spread.

With a severe season last year and the flu now being widespread this year, Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness Medical Director Lori Caloia said it’s possible that more people will be tested for flu this year.

“Last year was such a severe flu season, it could be that people are not going to waste their time. They’re going to get to doctor and get tested if they think they might have the flu,” Caloia said.

It’s still too early to tell if this flu season will be worse than last year. Though there are 180 more cases this year than the same time period in 2018, Caloia said that could be because the flu season started a little earlier.

Last flu season, about 54 percent of adults in Kentucky got a flu shot, according to a poll from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky. That was up from 38 percent of adults in the 2016-2017 flu season.

Lisa Gillespie is WFPL's Health and Innovation Reporter.