Kentucky health officials want to avoid a repeat of last year’s flu season that reached an epidemic level.
The flu virus killed 325 Kentuckians and sickened more than 10,000.
A coalition that also includes the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky and the Kentucky Medical Association launched a statewide flu prevention campaign on Tuesday.
Physicians and other health advocates emphasized that the best line of defense is the vaccine which is recommended for anyone over six months of age. Ben Chandler, President and CEO of The Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, says only about 38 percent of the state’s adults and 43 percent of children typically get flu shots.
"Kentuckians who live on very low incomes are more likely to have the kinds of chronic conditions that make them more vulnerable to serious flu complications," Chandler stated. "Yet, vaccination rates vary significantly by income level."
Flu activity has already started in some areas of the state. The Focus on Flu campaign is urging people to get vaccinated on Kentucky Flu Shot Day, which is September 26, or by the end of October. The vaccine takes two weeks to offer maximum protection against the flu.
According to the National Institutes of Health, the costs associated with the flu total more than $352 million a year in Kentucky. Warren, Hardin, Daviess, and Pulaski counties are among the top ten counties with the highest flu-related costs.
The Focus on Flu campaign also emphasizes preventing the spread of flu by washing your hands frequently with soap and water, covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, and limiting your contact with others if you do get sick. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after a fever has subsided.