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Kentucky’s top doctor urging Kentuckians to get flu shot during the pandemic

Published: Oct. 12, 2020 at 3:31 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - It seems everywhere you turn you are being reminded to get your flu shot and perhaps this year it is even more important than ever to get the vaccination.

As we head into the colder months, doctors are worried we are headed for a really nasty upper respiratory season. This year flu isn’t the only concern, as it’s now coupled with a virus we are still learning about-- the coronavirus.

In Kentucky, the state’s top doctor is urging everyone to get their flu shot now.

This time of year, Lexington doctor Crystal Martin spends a lot of her time encouraging her patients to get their flu shot. 66-year-old William Epperson isn’t one of those that needs persuading.

“When it is shot time, I take the flu shot, I take the pneumonia shot, anything they suggest especially with my age,” said William Epperson.

Epperson, who has some health issues, like a lot of people is concerned about COVID-19.

While there isn’t a vaccine for coronavirus, he can put up a defense against the flu. It’s something his doctor says we should all be doing.

“Get the flu shot, you may be very healthy and that’s fine, that’s when we need to get the flu shot, that’s how we help our neighbor,,” said Dr. Crystal Martin.

Every year millions get the flu. Last year the CDC says an estimated 38 million Americans got the flu and 22,000 people in the U.S. died from it.

In Kentucky we saw more than 27,408 cases and 162 deaths.

The flu is serious and add in COVID-19 and it becomes a year to be extra cautious, and just last week the state’s top doctor had this reminder for Kentuckians:

“Of all the years stay home if you are sick, if you have a fever or a cough or a runny nose, sore throat any of those things do not go to work, don’t go to school,” said Dr. Steven Stack.

Recently WKYT’s Amber Philpott sat down with Dr. Stack to talk about the flu season fast approaching and COVID-19. He says we are facing a twindemic.

“I do have concern that we could be facing some difficult months ahead,” said Dr. Stack.

In past hard flu seasons, the burden on hospitals can happen quick. Just last month, King’s Daughters in Ashland saw bed capacity eaten up by sick COVID patients.

Now think what could happen if you were to add in potentially those critically ill with flu.

“Every year with influenza we see admissions to hospitals go up because of people who are vulnerable develop secondary pneumonia or other problems related to it, that’s a normal year when you have a big pandemic year like H1N1 epidemic in 2009. It can overwhelm a hospital,” said Dr. Stack.

There is no widespread flu activity in Kentucky yet, but Dr. Stack says it will be here despite COVID-19.

“The reality is that the virus is still out there and every place that we have seen take their eye off the ball has seen the virus skyrocket out of control,” said Dr. Stack.

And that’s why Dr. Stack is urging Kentuckians to get that flu shot.

“The federal government has ordered, I guess last year, they ordered 170 million doses of flu vaccine, this year they have ordered 200 million so they have even more supply than is typical,” said Dr. Stack.

Couple that shot with what we are doing now to stop the spread of the coronavirus and Dr. Stack says we could make a difference in fighting both this season.

“If everybody wears a mask, socially distances and washes your hands we could really stomp down hard on the flu this year,” said Dr. Stack.

Here in Lexington you can get a free flu shot at the Lexington Fayette County Health Department. You do need an appointment. Because of COVID-19 safety concerns, walk-ins are not accepted.

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