More than half of Kentucky’s regions have seen an increase in flu outbreaks in the past week prompting the state health department to raise the flu level to widespread. That’s the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s highest level for flu.
State epidemiologist Craig Humbaugh says this year the main strain is H1N1, which first emerged in 2009.
“Symptoms are very similar to other types of Influenza A,” he says. “Those include fever, cough, malaise, muscle aches. And usually, unfortunately, the symptoms last 7 to 10 days with the true influenza.”
Humbaugh says it’s usual for outbreaks to increase during the coldest months of the year.
“Flu has a predilection for cold temperatures to begin with,” he says. “And then if you’re a susceptible person and you’re very close to someone else and they have the flu, and they cough or sneeze, well then you breathe that in and that’s how you get the flu.
“And when we’re closer together and the cold weather tends to mean that we’re indoors more and we’re in closer proximity to other human beings and that means that we’re more likely at risk for the flu.”
Humbaugh says the most effective prevention method is a flu shot of which there is an abundant supply. He also says regularly washing your hands and staying home if you do have the flu are ways to stop the illness from spreading.
Flu outbreaks have also increased in Tennessee, and health officials expect the numbers to continue to rise.