Six flu-related deaths have happened in Kentucky so far this season, according to the state Cabinet for Health and Family Services.
The state has been reporting widespread influenza activity for the last four weeks, which means the state has a high or increasing level of the virus.
“Normally it’s January through March in Kentucky when we reach our peak of flu activity. So, we’re reaching that peak a bit earlier this year,” said Dr. Kraig Humbaugh, director of the division of epidemiology and health planning,
One issue doctors are facing: The flu vaccine for this season does not protect against the most commonly circulated strain of the virus, called N3N2, he said.
Vaccine manufacturers must make the vaccine months in advance, which means scientists work to predict which strains will circulate each year, Humbaugh said.
“And maybe one out of every eight to 10 years they don’t get the match exactly right, and that’s what happened this year,” he said.
He said no vaccine is 100 percent, but it is still the best defense against the flu.
Humbaugh said flu seasons are very unpredictable and the agency is unsure of what to expect.
“It is a bit unusual for us to have had this much flu activity already in December,” he said.
So far this flu season, a child and five older individuals have died due to complications associated with the influenza virus, Humbaugh said.
Humbaugh said most people recover from the flu in seven to 10 days.
“But some people have more severe complications and those who are more vulnerable—such as the elderly, the very young and those with chronic diseases like asthma or diabetes—are more likely to experience those severe complications that could even result in death,” he said.
Humbaugh said it is not too late to get a flu shot. He also said people should stay home if they have the virus.