Health Department Encourages Steps to Protect Vulnerable Groups from Flu

March 13, 2017

Seasonal flu activity in Northern Kentucky has been elevated for more than four weeks, with local cases rising in early February and continuing to be elevated into early March. Through March 4, a total of 913 cases have been reported to the Northern Kentucky Health Department. Additionally, five deaths have been reported, all in adults with risk factors that made them more susceptible to complications from flu. Since the beginning of the year, the Health Department has also responded to several outbreaks of influenza in long-term care facilities, with cases reported in both residents and staff members.

“Influenza can be particularly risky for certain groups, including older adults and other individuals in long-term care facilities,” said Lynne M. Saddler, MD, MPH, District Director of Health. “The Health Department is working with all long-term care facilities in Northern Kentucky to take steps to prevent flu transmission in this setting, but citizens can also assist with this effort. If you or someone in your household has been ill with flu-like symptoms, including fever and cough, please do NOT visit family and friends in nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, hospitals or other health care facilities. Individuals who work in such facilities should also be sure to stay home when sick.”

Last year during the 2015-2016 flu season, a total of 966 cases of flu had been reported through early March.

“Overall, flu case reports in Northern Kentucky are not unusually high,” said Saddler. “However, we are concerned with the impact on the elderly that we are seeing as we monitor activity.”

The best way to protect against the flu and its complications is to get an annual flu vaccine. Older adults may want to consider a high-dose flu vaccine, which has been shown to provide additional protection for the elderly.

Besides vaccination, the Health Department recommends the following actions to protect older adults, and others, from flu:

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it. Or cough into your arm and not your hand.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
  • Stay home from work, school and errands when you or a family member is sick with flu. Keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick.

If you become ill with symptoms of flu, including fever and fatigue, contact your health care provider to see if it is appropriate to use anti-viral medications. Certain symptoms signal a more serious infection and require immediate attention, including difficulty breathing, pain or pressure in the abdomen, sudden dizziness or confusion, and severe or persistent vomiting.

For more information on flu, please visit this link.