LONDON, Ky. (WYMT) - Cases of the flu are on the rise in Kentucky, and state health officials now say the virus is widespread.
Public health officials say this year's flu season began tamely enough, but then it picked up speed.
"We started out regional, and last week we were still tracking quite a few cases," said immunologist Dr. Marion Pennington. "Well now it's widespread, so that's as bad as you can get."
The "widespread" classification means flu or flu-like symptoms have been found in at least half the districts of the state. Pennington says mild weather may be partly to blame, but a clear picture of how outbreaks like this one form is hard to pinpoint.
"Every year we have a different strain that comes out, because viruses are very easy to, what we call mutate, so they are going to survive," she said.
Officials say the flu shot is the best way to avoid infection. There are other practical steps you can take to avoid spreading the disease.
"Make sure that you wash your hands frequently. When you cough or sneeze cough into your elbow, and avoid large crowds," said Laurel County public health director Mark Hensley.
Kentucky's infection rate is expected to peak sometime during the next month.
Flu shots are available at regional hospitals and health departments. The Laurel County health department will be offering them for free this Friday from 8 pm to 4 pm.