More than just sniffles and sneezes, the flu is no joke.

We’re deep in the flu season in Kentucky and the toll is serious. According to the Kentucky Department for Public Health’s Weekly Influenza Surveillance Report, the disease’s activity level is considered “widespread,” or at its highest level, and the effects are being felt statewide.

According to the report, in the past week, there have been three total confirmed cases of the flu in Johnson County in the past week and nine for the season. But don’t let the numbers fool you. Next door in Floyd County, they’ve had 82 for the season and 21 of those in the last week.

In nearby Pike County, there have been 523 cases for the season and 71 in the last week.

Those numbers are shocking just on the surface level, but there’s another number within that data that really brings home how serious the matter is — 30 people dead from the flu in this season.

It’s a serious matter. It’s a life-and-death matter. And there are steps you can take to reduce your chances of being a statistic.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, there are several actions individuals can take to protect against flu, the chief among those being the flu vaccine. The CDC recommends a yearly vaccine as “the first and most important step in protecting against influenza and its potentially serious complications.

It’s not too late to get your shot and, oftentimes, it doesn’t even take a trip to the doctor, as many pharmacies now administer the flu vaccine, as well as others.

In addition, the CDC urges people to take everyday preventative actions to stop the spread of germs, including:

• Try to avoid close contact with sick people.

• While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.

• If you are sick with flu-like illness, CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone for 24 hours without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.)

• Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. After using a tissue, throw it in the trash and wash your hands.

• Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.

• Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like flu.

Taking these steps can help protect you. But there’s another reason as well. If we each take these steps, we can help prevent those who are most at-risk of the worst effects from contracting the flu and potentially losing their lives due to carelessness.

Protect yourself, protect others.

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