LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Now is the time -- that’s the message from health officials asking Kentuckians to help the Commonwealth avoid the flu epidemic we had last year.
During last year’s flu season, 325 people lost their lives, five of them children.
Calls are going out to doctor’s offices statewide with people wondering if the flu vaccine is available.
“People are already wondering, cause we’re approaching the Fall and that’s really part of the flu season,” Norton Family Physician Dr. Richard Blair said. "It’s available. It was available starting a few weeks ago.”
Local doctors and state health officials said now is the time to get the flu shot.
“They’re inexpensive, they are easy to get and they reduce the chance of getting the flu by as much as 60 percent,” Ben Chandler, Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky President, said.
Chandler helped lead the state’s Focus on Flu campaign Tuesday in Frankfort.
“I think people are asking more about it this year than last year,” Norton Medical Assistant Diana Peters told WAVE 3 News.
State health officials said that may be because last year 10,500 Kentuckians got the flu and it became deadly for hundreds.
Officials stress people who get the flu shot -- even if they contract a strain of the flu -- have less severe symptoms.
That’s exactly why Menisa Marshall has been getting one for 15 years straight. The year she didn’t get one and got the flu, she says it was bad.
“I was a young mom, very healthy and I just felt a little weak and funny one day running a fever,” she remembered. “The next thing I know, I was so gravely ill that I missed like two weeks of work. It was probably the sickest I’ve ever been in my life.”
And that’s how the flu affected someone in good health. Those with existing health conditions are really at risk.
“Bad heart, bad lungs, bad kidneys, it (the flu) puts a lot of people in the hospital," Blair explained.
Blair worked in the Madisonville, KY area last flu season and also saw big problems where people were crowded together: High schools, hospitals and nursing homes.
Sept. 26 has already been designated as the statewide flu shot day, but if people can get it now, medical officials say go ahead. They would like everyone to get a flu shot at the very least by the end of October.
Besides getting that shot, people should wash their hands constantly with soap and water during the flu season and cover their nose and mouth when they cough and sneeze. Plus, those who do get sick should stay away from other people.
People who get the shot can let the state know on social media. Post a selfie with the hashtags #gotmyshot and #focusonflu.