By Samantha Swindler/Managing Editor

As the peak months for influenza near, health department officials are reminding everyone that it’s not too late to get vaccinated against the sometimes deadly — and always agonizing — flu virus.

“There’s a complacency about the flu that’s alarming in this state,” said Jody Epperson, health planner with the Kentucky Department of Health immunization program. “It’s a severe viral illness. You’re sick for 10-14 days, with high fever, severe muscle aches ... (and) exasperation of chronic health conditions.”

To date, Whitley County has had eight laboratory confirmed cultures of flu, Epperson said — but that doesn’t mean only eight people in the county were sick. The state health department does some flu sampling to track for example, how effective vaccines have been.

So far, Epperson said, none of the confirmed cases have been from a strain that would not have been preventable by a flu shot. One myth about flu shots is that the recipient will still contract the virus, just a weaker version.

“This is a vaccine-preventable virus,” Epperson said. “If you get the flu shot, you will not contract the strains of flu that are covered in the vaccine ... it’s very important that they get their shots.”

Epperson said it’s especially important for pregnant women and mothers of young children to get the shot, since babies younger than six months cannot be vaccinated. Elderly persons, who may suffer more complications from contracting the flu, and children between the ages of six months and five years are also encouraged to receive the vaccine.

“Most people like to get (shots) in October and November, but it’s still not too late to get them now,” said Tamara Johnson, public health nursing supervisor at the Whitley County Health Department. “Last year, we had flu still going on in April. Usually by March we’re done, but last year was an odd season.”

Epperson said 110 million doses were produced for the U.S. this flu season — an increase of 17 percent over last year. The Whitley County Health Department still has flu shots available. Vaccines are $10 and can be received between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. weekdays, except Tuesday. Whitley County Health Department has locations at 3750 Cumberland Falls Hwy. in Corbin and 114 North 2nd St. in Williamsburg.

“The last two years it (flu season) peaked at the end of February and beginning of March,” Epperson said.

Aside from the vaccine, what’s the best way to prevent the flu from spreading? Well, Mom’s advice was right — wash your hands frequently, cover your nose when sneezing, and stay away from work or other public places when you’re sick.

“Hand washing is one of the biggest things you can do to decrease the spread of any type of disease,” Johnson said.

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