Residents of Madisonville continue to be dogged by a statewide influenza outbreak.

The influenza activity level in Kentucky is reported as "widespread" for the third consecutive week, according to the Kentucky Department for Public Health. This means that 13 of the 17 regions of the commonwealth had confirmed flu cases in the last reporting week, which ended Dec. 30.

Baptist Health Madisonville has reported 48 hospitalizations for the flu since Jan. 1. Visitation restrictions remain in effect at the hospital in an effort to protect patients from influenza. Visitors are limited to those determined to be "immediate family" or "significantly participating in the support of the hospitalized patient," free of influenza-like symptoms and aged 18 or above.

After a Hopkins County Board of Health meeting on Wednesday, health department Director Denise Beach urged the public to be vaccinated for the flu, especially if they fall into groups at high risk of having serious flu-related complication, such as children under 5, the elderly, or pregnant women.

"Still get the flu shot," Beach said, "even though the match is not as high as it is some years with the vaccine, if you've had the flu shot and the antigen is close, you can still develop some antibodies that help you to prevent the flu or have less symptoms."

When the majority of the community is vaccinated, it also makes it less likely that residents with compromised immune systems who cannot receive the vaccination will be infected with the flu.

Flu vaccines are available at the health department and at many healthcare providers, urgent care facilities and pharmacies.

Should flu-like symptoms appear, it's important to know when a visit to the doctor may become necessary.

"If you're a healthy, working adult with no chronic health problems, most of the time you can take something for the symptoms and do just fine," said Beach.

Over-the-counter medications, rest and increased fluid intake can help with symptoms, and those affected should stay home if possible to avoid the spread of illness.

"You should be improving at least within four days," said Dr. Richard Lee, medical director for the health department. "If you're not better in 72 to 96 hours, then see someone because there is a chance of developing pneumonia and other complications."

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