Vaccination helps prevent flu

Medical Leader | FILE PHOTO
FLU PREVENTION: Washing your hands is one way to prevent the spread of germs during flu season.

PIKEVILLE - Flu season started earlier than usual this year. So far the leading strain, known as H3N2, has accounted for more than 98 percent of cases and tends to hit young children and the elderly the hardest.

Those most at-risk for severe flu complications, such as pneumonia, include the elderly and people who suffer from heart disease, are pregnant, have compromised immune systems or who are severely obese.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently reported a total of 22,048 flu cases from Sept. 30 to Dec. 31, 2012.

That is 26 times more flu cases than during the same time period in 2011.

“Kentucky has had widespread flu activity for five weeks,” said Dr. Kraig Humaugh, Kentucky’s sepidemiologist for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

According to the CDC, widespread flu activity is defined as increased flu-like activity or flu outbreaks in at least half of the regions in a state along with laboratory evidence of the flu.

In a Modern Healthcare Magazine article, Dr. Thomas Freiden, CDC Director, said, “It’s likely that influenza will continue for several more weeks.”

Getting a flu vaccination is the best protection, and even though it is almost February it is not too late to get one. “Better late than never,” said Frieden.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services advises that “everyone six months of age and older should get vaccinated against the flu.”

Typical flu symptoms include a fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headaches, body aches, chills, fatigue, nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea. The common cold and flu share many of the same symptoms, but these symptoms are typically more intense with the flu.

“It is very important for symptomatic individuals to seek early evaluation from a health care provider, since the treatment for flu is most effective if initiated within the first 48 hours of symptom onset,” said Dr. Maleshea Dunning, Pikeville Medical Center Medical Education and Residency Program Director.

Seek immediate emergency care if any of these symptoms are present:

•Difficulty breathing/shortness of breath

•Purple/blue discoloration of the lips

•Pain/pressure in chest or abdomen

•Sudden dizziness


•Severe/persistent vomiting


•Flu-like symptoms that improve and return again with a fever and worse cough

In addition to getting a flu vaccine, these other steps can help prevent the spread of the flu:

•Wash hands often with soap and water/alcohol-based hand sanitizer

•Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth

•Avoid close contact with people who are sick

•Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing/sneezing, and then throw the tissue away

•See a physician immediately if you have flu-like symptoms and stay home at least 24 hours after your fever is gone

•Get plenty of sleep and exercise

•Try to manage stress

•Drink plenty of fluids

•Eat healthy

“In addition to hand washing and obtaining the flu vaccine, the best way to prevent spreading the virus is to avoid contact with sick individuals,” said Dr. Dunning.

“Individuals who have symptoms should wear masks when out in public areas and should stay at home if at all possible.  Limiting contact with others helps prevent a secondary infection in people with the flu, as well as protects those not affected.”