No way to know how serious flu season will be this year; get your vaccine, which will be available soon, officials say

There is no way of predicting how far-reaching the flu will be this season, but this year’s vaccine should be available soon, officials with the Kentucky Department for Public Health said today.

“As soon as you get the immunizations you can start administering them,” Sherri Coles, Kentucky Vaccine Program assistant coordinator, told a physician during today’s webinar on the subject.

Last flu season was very mild, particularly compared to the one before it, when the H1N1 flu virus was first found here. About 22,400 people nationwide were confirmed to have the flu last season. There were 26 lab-confirmed pediatric deaths caused by flu, but none were in Kentucky. Flu activity was only widespread for five weeks in Kentucky last season, in March and April.

Flu shots are recommended for everyone from 6 months of age and older. Children 6 months to 8 years of age getting the vaccine for the first time should get two doses administered at least one month apart.

The flu can be treated with antiviral drugs, Coles said, which can “lesson the symptoms and shorten the time you are sick by one or two days.” The drugs should be taken within two days of getting sick, though starting them later can still be helpful for people who have a pre-existing health condition or are very sick from the flu. Tamiflu and Relenza are the two kinds of antiviral drugs available. Relenza can only be taken by people who do not have breathing problems like asthma or COPD.

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