By Brandon Buchanan

The Messenger

In the last week, there have been six confirmed cultures of the Influenza virus in Hopkins County, according to the Hopkins County Health Department.

Across Kentucky, there were 2,213 new cases last week alone, according to the Kentucky Department for Public Health.

"We're starting to see a widespread action," said Health Department Director Denise Beach. "Once we have a culture-confirmed, then we know it's in our area. After that, we start looking at rapid influenza testing."

With the flu now confirmed in the area, the Health Department is helping by continuing to offer flu vaccinations. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, administering the seasonal influenza vaccination is the most important measure for prevention.

"We're encouraging everybody to get a flu shot -- it is not too late. We are still seeing increases in flu activity," said Beach. "Last year, we had influenza in our area through April."

The flu virus is spread through airborne droplets emitted by coughing and sneezing. You may also contract the flu by touching an object contaminated with the virus, according to the CDC.

Because of the increased flu activity, precautions have been taken at Baptist Health Madisonville. Patient visitation guidelines have been updated, according to a news release.

Visitors will be restricted to immediate family or a significant supporter of the patient. No visitors with flu-like symptoms. No visitors aged 15-and-under -- siblings of newborns will be allowed if they haven't had a fever within 24 hours and have no flu symptoms, they must wash hands and wear a mask.

All visitors need to wash their hands frequently and use hand sanitizer. By taking these precautions, Baptist hopes to stop further spread of the flu in the community and protect the health of their patients during this season.

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"To reduce the spread of influenza in the hospital setting, we're asking that only those needed for the care of the patients visit the hospital," said Beach. "Keep children away from the hospital because children often spread influenza."

If you are experiencing signs and symptoms of the flu, Beach said to stay home.

"Limit your interactions with others, cover your coughs and anyone that has a fever should not be going to work," she said. "Especially stay away from young babies under 6-months-old that are not immunized, that's really important."

The two best methods for prevention are good handwashing and the influenza vaccine, said Beach.

Vaccinations are being offered through the Health Department as well as other locations in the area. For more information, you can contact the Health Department at 270-821-5242.