The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has listed Kentucky as one of 45 states where influenza has become widespread.
According to the Kentucky Department for Public Health Weekly Influenza Surveillance Report ending the week of Dec. 21, the last week of information provided, 1,339 new cases of the flu were reported during the week. That's an increase from the 814 cases reported the week before.
In total, the Bluegrass State has seen 3,775 confirmed cases of the flu so far. However, the actual number of confirmed cases of the flu in Kentucky could be much higher as one-fourth of its counties did not report any information.
Locally, Knox County had two new cases of the flu reported during the week of Dec. 21, bringing its total to seven so far this flu season. Whitley County has reported three cases in total, and Laurel County leads all three counties with 20 cases reported so far.
According to the CDC's report, six Kentuckians have died from influenza so far this season. However, the Courier Journal reported Wednesday that two more people have died from the flu in Louisville.
On a national level, the CDC is reporting that so far this season there have been at least 6.4 million flu illnesses confirmed, 55,000 hospitalizations and 2,900 deaths from flu.
The flu virus is spread by people who are ill through airborne droplets emitted by coughing and sneezing. You also may contract the flu by touching objects contaminated with the virus.
The most common signs and symptoms of the flu include fever, coughing, sore throat, runny or stuff nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue, and some may even experience vomiting and diarrhea, although health officials say this is usually more common in children than adults.
The most vulnerable people to the flu are children under five years old, especially those younger than two; pregnant women; people 65 years or older; residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities; healthcare workers; and teachers, day care workers, or anyone else who works with children.
If you are sick, the CDC recommends staying home for at least 24 hours after your fever has subsided.
With four more months of the flu season, the season typically last until May, the CDC is recommending that anyone over the age of 6 months get a flu vaccination. It takes roughly two weeks following the administration of the vaccine before protection from the flu is fully developed. Vaccinations are available at Kentucky's local health departments, pharmacies, and medical providers.
The CDC says that antiviral medication is an important supplement to the flu vaccine, reporting that almost all of the influenza viruses tested this season are susceptible to the four FDA-approved influenza antiviral medications.
Other preventive measures include proper and frequent hand washing. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth as germs have an easier time spreading this way. Keeping your home and office disinfected with wipes and cleaners will also help prevent the spread of flu causing germs.