A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Officials reminding Kentuckians of importance of flu shots as Fayette Co. records first flu-related death

By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

Kentucky remains in the midst of its worst Hepatitis A outbreak in years, but now the flu has claimed its first victim of the season.

The Lexington-Fayette County Health Department confirmed on Monday their first death due to the flu.

Take the flu vaccine is being recommended. The first death of in Kentucky this flu season was reported in Lexington. (Fayette County Health Department photo via Kentucky Today)

Health Department spokesman Kevin Hall says there were 80,000 flu-related deaths in the United States last year, 27 in Fayette County alone.

“We had 744 confirmed flu cases last year,” said Hall, “But that represents just a small fraction, since most flu cases aren’t lab-confirmed. The CDC estimates five to 20 percent of the U.S. population gets the flu each year, costing an estimated $10.4 billion in medical expenses and $16.3 billion in lost earnings.

“A flu shot is recommended for everyone ages 6 months and above, especially those 65 and older as they’re most at risk for serious complications from the flu, including death.”

Meanwhile, the number of Hepatitis A cases in Kentucky is nearing 2,000, since the outbreak was identified by the Kentucky Department for Public Health in November 2017.

As of Sept. 29, there have been 1,943 Hep A cases in Kentucky, resulting in 1,069 hospitalizations and 14 deaths. While Jefferson County has had the most reported cases with 619, the highest rates per 100,000 population continue to be in northeast Kentucky.

Carter County’s rate is 464.2, and neighboring Boyd County is 329.3. Jefferson County, by way of comparison, has a rate of 80.3.

The Department for Public Health said many people have been infected with HAV strains genetically linked to outbreaks in California, Utah and Michigan. Similar to hepatitis A outbreaks in other states, the primary risk factors remain illicit drug use and homelessness. A contaminated food source has not been identified, and HAV transmission is believed to be occurring through person-to-person contact.

Health officials continue to recommend vaccinations against the Hepatitis A virus.

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