By TOM LATEK, Kentucky Today Nov 9, 2023
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (KT) – Flu season has officially arrived, at least in Kentucky’s largest city, as surveillance by the University of Louisville’s Christina Lee Brown Environment Institute shows a significant increase in flu virus concentration in Louisville’s wastewater. Flu season typically occurs between October and May, with peak activity in December and January. Researchers at U of L’s Environment Institute, in collaboration with the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness, have utilized a wastewater-monitoring approach to track the presence and levels of infectious diseases, including the flu and COVID-19, to offer an early-warning system for Louisville.“Wastewater monitoring involves tracking the presence of pathogens, such as viruses, in sewage or wastewater,” said Ted Smith, associate professor of pharmacology and toxicology and environmental medicine at U of L. “This innovative technique allows researchers to detect the early signs of disease outbreaks in a community, providing valuable insights into the potential spread of illnesses and enabling timely public health responses. Our latest wastewater report shows flu season has officially arrived. If you have not taken action already, now is the time to take steps to protect yourself and your family from getting sick.”To reduce the chance of severe symptoms and hospitalization, the most effective and proactive step you can take is to get vaccinated against the flu,” said Kris Bryant, associate medical director at LMPHW, professor of pediatrics at UofL and pediatric infectious diseases specialist at Norton Children’s. “To be protected during this time of spread, it is crucial to receive your flu shot as soon as possible. It’s recommended that everyone 6 months and older get their flu vaccine. The flu vaccine is both safe and highly effective.”It typically takes about two weeks for immunity to develop after vaccination. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), individuals who were vaccinated against the flu last year were 40% to 70% less likely to be hospitalized due to flu-related illness or complications. They say vaccination not only protects you but also contributes to the overall community’s well-being by reducing the spread of the virus.