Flu murdered 325 Kentucky residents – five of them children – last season, and there were nearly 10,500 confirmed flu cases in the Commonwealth.
"That's a lot of people to die from something we know to prevent," said Dorothy Altrogge, director of nursing at the department of Procurement.
Local providers and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that annual flu shots are the best way to prevent the disease from spreading and preventing its spread. But only 40 percent of Kentuckians had a flu shot last year, reported Kentucky Health News.
"Many people are not informed about the danger and the widespread nature (of the flu), and if another type of disease had this impact, it would attract attention," said Altrogge. "Because it's just the flu and people know that they get over it, they tend to underestimate the potential danger, not only for themselves, but for the community as a whole."
The flu season starts in October and ends in May, with the highest activity between December and March, says the CDC. The vaccine is effective for six months. The agency recommends that almost everyone is vaccinated by the end of October, but adds that it is better not to get the vaccine at all.
"Every time the flu season has started, it's time to take a picture," said Altrogge.
Medical caregivers say that the misconceptions of many people about the flu vaccine – including the belief that it gives a flu shot – can make sure they do not get the injection.
"Years ago, as a result of the live virus (in the vaccine), you could get symptoms," said Heather Leath, an experienced nurse at Baptist Urgent Care in Paducah. "That is no longer true."
Vaccinations given with a needle are made with flu viruses that have been killed, or with a single gene of the flu virus, that produces an immune response without causing an infection. Nasal spray flu vaccines contain live, but attenuated influenza viruses according to the CDC.
There are several reasons why people can become ill after receiving the flu shot. The vaccine needs two weeks to work, so if you are exposed to the virus in that period, you can still get sick, said Hannah Anderson, a nurse practitioner at Mercy Health – Paducah Urgent Care.
Also, some symptoms of the flu – including cough, sore throat, runny nose or stuffy nose and headache – are similar to symptoms of other respiratory diseases, against which the flu vaccine provides no protection, reports the CDC. It can be difficult, or even impossible, to distinguish between the flu and another disease without a test.
A person can also be exposed to a flu virus that differs from the viruses that must protect the vaccine. Nevertheless, influenza vaccination reduces the risk of flu disease between 40 and 60 percent, according to the CDC.
"It is our best chance and even if it is not a good match, it has been proven to prevent flu cases and deaths," said Altrogge.
Some people, such as babies less than 6 months old and those with a severely compromised immune system, can not receive the vaccination. That makes it all the more important that the rest of the community is vaccinated.
"Getting your flu vaccine certainly helps those around you who are immune compromised, and babies younger than six months," Leath said. "It is a very sensible decision to help prevent the spread of flu."
Washing hands, staying home if you are sick and wearing a face mask are also good preventive measures, the ARPNs added. It takes a few days for the symptoms to occur, allowing a person to unwittingly spread the virus to others.
Most local hospitals and clinics have started offering the photo or will appear soon. Mercy Health and the McCracken County public library will organize a free flu shot on the second floor of the library on Saturday 13 October from 10 am to 12 noon. Free photos are limited to the first 100 people. Call RSVP at 270-538-6819 or e-mail [email protected]