Health and Family Services Cabinet
Public Health Urges Good Hygiene Habits to Avoid H1N1 Flu (Swine Flu)
Flu Cases Expected to Increase During Back to School, Regular Flu Season
(Aug. 6, 2009) FRANKFORT, Ky. – Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH) officials are reminding Kentuckians to practice basic precautions such as hand washing and staying home when sick to help prevent the spread of novel H1N1 influenza (swine flu) as the state moves into the back to school season.
"Like the rest of the nation, we have continued to detect cases of H1N1 over the summer,” said William Hacker, M.D., commissioner of DPH. “While the spread of H1N1 has been at a reduced rate in the past few months, we remain concerned about how widespread it may become as we move into the fall and our regular flu season. We want to remind Kentuckians to stay aware of new developments related to the flu and to focus on practicing good health habits.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has told states to expect an increase in the number of cases of the H1N1 flu strain first identified in the spring, and which has since been declared a worldwide pandemic. Kentucky is also planning for a potential H1N1 vaccination campaign once vaccine becomes available.
Because the flu can spread easily among people in close contact and H1N1 has been more common in young people, health officials say it is especially important for those in school, day care or similar settings to practice good hygiene habits during the coming months. Common sense precautions to prevent illness include: avoiding close contact with those who are ill; staying home when sick; covering the mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing; avoiding touching the eyes, nose or mouth; and frequent hand washing.
Letters with information about H1N1 were recently sent to all Kentucky public school superintendents, in partnership with the Kentucky Department of Education.
“Kentucky public health is working closely with partners at the local, state and federal levels to respond appropriately to the H1N1 pandemic and to the regular seasonal flu that we expect later this year,” said Dr. Hacker. “The illness that H1N1 causes is very similar to the seasonal flu to date, and most cases have not resulted in serious complications. We want parents to encourage good health practices among their children.”
Symptoms of H1N1 influenza include fever, chills, headache, sore throat, cough, body aches, and may include vomiting or diarrhea. Individuals at higher risk for complications—such as those with chronic health conditions or who are pregnant—should contact a health care provider early, in case treatment with antiviral medication is necessary.
Recently the CDC stopped collecting and reporting case totals of H1N1 by state because surveillance efforts are meant to serve as a tracking system to follow the patterns and types of flu each year, rather than reflecting a full count of all flu cases. At this time, the majority of flu cases in the country are H1N1. Effective immediately, DPH will begin reporting a weekly level of flu activity on http://healthalerts.ky.gov instead of individual case counts.
Currently, Kentucky’s flu activity is classified as “sporadic,” the lowest level indicating flu activity. Once seasonal flu strains begin to circulate, culture-confirmed case counts will also be available on a weekly basis, to give an indication of what types of flu are circulating throughout the state.
“Now that we have established that the new H1N1 strain is circulating widely throughout Kentucky, the nation and the world, we are transitioning to the same type of tracking system that we use for seasonal flu,” said Kraig Humbaugh, M.D., state epidemiologist at DPH. “We will continue to make information about any new developments regarding H1N1 available immediately, and to report the results of our surveillance efforts to monitor the spread of illness during the upcoming flu season.”
Gov. Steve Beshear recently announced that Kentucky will hold a statewide Pandemic Influenza Summit on Sept. 3 at the Frankfort Convention Center to assist private and public stakeholders in preparing for any developments related to the novel H1N1 flu strain in the months ahead. Information on registration will be available soon.
For more information on swine flu, visit: www.flu.gov. Individuals can also visit http://healthalerts.ky.gov for information on H1N1 and Kentucky, or follow KYHealthAlerts on Twitter to be notified when new information is posted at the Web site.