FLU-isville? City reports surge in confirmed flu cases


by Joe Arnold


Posted on January 4, 2013 at 6:45 PM

Updated Friday, Jan 4 at 9:09 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky (WHAS11) -- The surging flu outbreak shows no sign of slowing, the Centers for Disease Control said on Friday.

Both Kentucky and Indiana have been reporting "widespread" flu activity for weeks.  An updated flu surveillance map released by the CDC on Friday indicated an increase in Kentucky flu diagnoses in the last week.

Reports of flu cases in Jefferson County are far ahead of last year's pace, according to figures compiled by the Metro Department of Health and Wellness.

One year ago, Louisville had two "lab confirmed" cases of the flu.

As of Friday, 50 lab confirmed cases are reported this flu season.

"We are definitely tracking ahead of where we have been in previous years," said Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt, director of the Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness. "I think it's very important for us to stress and aggressively stress that people need to get vaccinated. If we have more people that are vaccinated and protected against influenza, we can do more to prevent this from being a worse flu season here in Jefferson County."

And Louisville doctors report 807 positive "rapid tests," the instant tests taken in their offices.

"We're definitely seeing a much worse flu season this year than we did last year," said Dr. Terry Weiss of Deer Park Family Doctors.

"There are multiple viruses that are out here right now," Weiss continued.  "We have a real problem with the stomach virus.  We've certainly seen a coughing virus that isn't the flu but it's lingering for multiple days.  And now we've got real flu."

"I think the flu vaccine may not be working as well as we would like it to this year," Weiss said.  "But I also think the weather has a lot to do with it.  I think we weren't all together for a while and then we were because it suddenly got cold."

"The flu season is earlier than we have seen in a decade," said Dr. Richard Besser.  The ABC News Chief Health and Medical Editor led the Centers for Disease Control's response to the H1N1 outbreak.

"The amount of flu we're seeing and the experience in Kentucky.  This is normally what you see in February and March, not the beginning of January."

Besser said health officials will not know for about a month whether the flu vaccine is very effective.

"In general, it's about 85 percent effective in young children, about 60 percent effective in healthy adults and much lower, much, much lower in the elderly, who need it the most," Besser said.  "So, it's not unheard of it happens a lot that someone will get the flu vaccine and then still go on and get the flu
But it still protects a lot more people than it lets get sick."

And Weiss said she needs "a little sign" for every patient who questions whether they can catch the flu from the flu vaccine.

"NO, you can't," Weiss said.

"Usually people start getting their flu vaccine in September, October and November," Weiss said, "and that's when we're starting to see a lot of viral illnesses."

"You might have a reaction to it, that's true," Weiss continued.  "I had a sore arm this year.  You might get a headache from it.  You might feel a little under the weather for 24 hours.  But the full virus, sick, runny nose, cough, all that stuff, that's not going to be from the full vaccine. That will be because you probably got the virus before you got the flu vaccine."

Flu prevention also means taking other preventive measures - as simple as using disinfecting wipes to washing your hands.

"Wash, wash, wash your hands," Weiss said.  "Everybody needs to wash your hands. You need to cover your mouth when you cough. If you're sick, don't go to work."

"It drives me nuts when I see the person at work who is just braving it out and coming in and 'getting the job done,'" Besser said.  "Well, they're not getting the job done and they're making everybody else sick."