Wash your hands and cover your cough. And there is still time to get your flu shot.

That is the message from public health officials as the state and the area cope with the widespread outbreak of influenza, more commonly known as the flu.

Kentucky is among 10 states reporting high influenza-like illness activity, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Mason County is among those counties reporting laboratory-confirmed cases of the illness, according to Buffalo Trace District Health Director Allison Adams. Only cases confirmed by laboratory tests are counted among the 350 reported by Kentucky health officials, many more cases are diagnosed and treated by private doctor offices, she said.

The most frequently identified influenza virus type reported by public health laboratories was influenza A, according to information from the CDC.  Flu vaccines are made each year to protect individuals from the most likely type of flu to circulate among the public, Adams said.

"It's a guestimate," she said.

This year the type of flu most people are experiencing is not what was expected, Adams said. But that doesn't mean the flu shot you got this fall is ineffective, she said. In fact, even if you get the flu, the symptoms should be less severe than if you had the shot.

Still, the best defenses are those that prevent the spread of any disease -- hand washing, covering your cough and staying home when you are sick, Adams said.

"That's the public health message," she said.

And, anyone who has not had a flu shot should consider getting one now. There are still readily available at most doctor offices and pharmacies, she said, and still recommended. Because the shot takes two weeks to become effective, those who want to avoid being exposed should consider staying away from crowded places in the meantime.

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