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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 900,000 flu-related hospitalizations and 80,000 flu-related deaths occurred in the US during the 2017-2018 flu season. Signs and symptoms of the flu typically are intense and occur suddenly. Fever (usually high), headache, extreme tiredness, dry cough, runny or stuffy nose, muscle aches, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea (more common in children) are common symptoms.

Complications of the flu include bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections, dehydration, sepsis and worsening of chronic medical conditions such as congestive heart failure, diabetes and asthma.

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.

According to the CDC, most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning one day before symptoms develop and up to five days after becoming sick. While it is a serious viral disease, it also is a preventable one. The best method of prevention is to receive your flu vaccination every year.

Who should get the Flu Vaccine?

Vaccine experts recommend that everyone 6 months of age and older should be vaccinated against the flu. While vaccination against the flu is recommended for everyone, it is especially important for those at high risk for serious flu-related complications or those who live with or care for people at high risk. This includes:

  • Children younger than 5 years, but especially those younger than 2 years;
  • Pregnant women;
  • People 65 and older;
  • People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions;
  • Residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities;
  • People who live with or care for those at high risk for complications from flu, including: 
    • Health care workers;
    • Household contacts of persons at high risk for complications from flu; and 
    • Household contacts and out-of-home caregivers of children younger than 6 months of age (these children are too young to be vaccinated).

When should I get the flu vaccine?

Get your flu shot as soon as possible once annual vaccine is available. Flu season most often peaks in January or February or later, so for people not able to get the flu vaccine in the Fall, vaccination in December, January and beyond is beneficial in most years.

Good Health Habits to Prevent the Spread of Flu

As flu season approaches, the Kentucky Department for Public Health encourages good health and hygiene habits to prevent the spread of flu at home, work and school. Flu is spread by contact with respiratory droplets from an infected person. Some viruses and bacteria can live two hours or longer on surfaces like cafeteria tables, doorknobs and desktops. The state public health agency urges all residents to take basic precautions to avoid the spread of germs and viruses. In addition to covering your mouth when coughing and sneezing, other good health habits that can help prevent the spread of flu and other respiratory viruses are:          

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for 15-20 seconds or  use alcohol-based disposable hand wipes or gel sanitizers.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs often are spread when a person touches an object contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Get an annual flu shot to help you develop antibodies to protect against flu infection.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from contracting your illness.
  • Stay home from work, school and errands if possible when you are sick. This will help prevent others from catching your illness.
  • Remind children to practice healthy habits because germs spread easily at school and in child care settings, resulting in high rates of absenteeism among students and staff in our state’s schools.

More information from the CDC

Pneumococcal infection information