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January 25, 2018

DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH REPORTS KENTUCKY IS IN ITS SIXTH CONSECUTIVE WEEK OF WIDESPREAD FLU ACTIVITY


The Kentucky Department for Public Health now describes influenza activity in Kentucky as an epidemic. This season’s strain of the flu virus can be extremely serious, even deadly, not just for those in higher risk categories but to generally healthy Kentuckians as well.

Kentucky is in its sixth consecutive week of widespread flu activity which is the highest level of flu activity and indicates increased flu-like activity or flu outbreaks in at least half of the regions in the state.

“Widespread influenza activity means that Kentuckians are likely to encounter one or more persons shedding influenza virus at work, at school, while shopping, while traveling, at athletic or entertainment events, and in places of worship,” said the Acting Department for Public Health Commissioner Dr. Jeffrey D. Howard. “A person who will develop influenza illness actually can transmit the virus to other persons beginning one day before their illness begins.”

The most common flu type identified in Kentucky and in 78% of the 65 influenza-associated deaths this season is influenza A. Of the deaths so far, 7% have occurred in previously healthy individuals with no reported risk factors for severe illness. Healthy persons with influenza also will usually miss three to five days of work, school, or other usual activities, and sometimes may miss seven to 10 days.

“Pneumonia, bacterial bloodstream infections, and sepsis are examples of serious influenza-related complications that may require hospitalization and sometimes result in death of healthy people with no known risk factors for serious illness,” added Department for Public Health’s State Epidemiologist, Dr. Jonathan Ballard. “Flu vaccination is the most effective protection against flu. We especially recommend that all healthy Kentuckians aged six months and older be vaccinated. The flu season typically runs until late spring so it is not too late to get vaccinated.”

It takes about 2 weeks following the administration of the vaccine for the recipient to develop protection from the flu. There are ample supplies available throughout the state. Vaccinations are available at Kentucky’s local health departments, pharmacies, and medical providers. Many health plans cover the cost of the vaccine with no copay.

Health officials invite the public to participate in a Facebook Live discussion about the flu on the CHFS Facebook page Thursday night at 6 p.m. eastern, 5 p.m. central. You can submit flu questions beforehand t This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or post your question in the comments section during the event.

The flu can be highly contagious and cause potentially life-threatening disease. Infection with the flu virus can cause fever, headache, cough, sore throat, runny nose, sneezing and body aches. Persons who develop flu symptoms should seek medical advice to determine if they should be treated with an antiviral drug, which could shorten the course of the illness or reduce its severity.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers these tips to stop the spread of germs:

• Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
• While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.

• If you are sick with flu-like illness, CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone for 24 hours without the use of a fever-reducing medicine).

• Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.

• Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

• Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu.

“Recently the CDC issued a health advisory recommending antiviral treatment to all hospitalized and high-risk persons with suspected influenza and that benefits of antiviral medications are observed even when treatment is initiated beyond two days of illness onset,” concluded Dr. Ballard.

Influenza virus can also directly infect the heart and can cause severe and potentially fatal acute changes in the heart’s rhythm and function.

Those same serious and potentially fatal complications can also occur in people at high risk for developing influenza-related complications. Persons at high-risk include children younger than five years (but especially children younger than two years), adults aged 65 years and older, pregnant women (and women up to two weeks postpartum), residents of nursing homes and other longer term facilities, and persons with chronic illnesses (e.g., asthma and chronic respiratory illnesses, neurological or neurodevelopmental conditions, heart disease, blood disorders (such as sickle cell disease), diabetes, kidney and liver disorders, weakened immune system due to disease like cancer or medications, persons younger than 19 years who are receiving long-term aspirin therapy and people with extreme obesity (body mass index of 40 or more).

DPH officials report weekly to the CDC national flu surveillance system. The weekly report is now available online at chfs.ky.gov and is updated each Friday before noon.

From Kentucky Department for Public Health

 

 

January 17, 2018

 Kentucky has been hit hard by the opioid epidemic, but the state is trying to fight it with innovative efforts to gather more specific data about overdose deaths. The Kentucky Injury Prevention and Research Center, a partnership between the state Department for Public Health and the University of Kentucky College of Public Health, built a "drug-overdose fatality surveillance system" that combines information sources like death-certificate information, post-mortem toxicology analysis, and victims' prescription history to get a better picture of which drugs are killing people and under what circumstances.

"The efforts that KIPRC and the state have made to improve this data have led to crucial findings, including that Kentucky’s crisis isn’t one crisis, but many," Kathryn Casteel reports for FiveThirtyEight. "Different parts of the state are afflicted with different drugs. Northern Kentucky, for example, has a high prevalence of heroin and fentanyl — a synthetic opioid that is more deadly than heroin and other types of opioids — while in the eastern part of the state, prescription opioids are still the main concern.

KIPRC chart; click on the image to enlarge it.

"We’re not doing this for the sake of research," Svetla Slavova, a biostatistician with KIPRC, told Casteel. "We provide actionable data for policymaking, treatment and prevention. We’re trying to be responsive and provide data that will help make these decisions." Because of KIPRC's research, Van Ingram, the executive director of the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy, said he was able to push legislation increasing the availability of the anti-overdose drug naloxone.

One of KIPRC's biggest efforts is to make death-certificate information more uniform across the state, because "even the smallest differences in language can leave overdose deaths uncounted," Casteel reports. Sarah Hargrove, a data management analyst for KIPRC and former autopsy technician for the state, is spearheading the effort. It's tough going, since some coroners in the state's 120 counties, many of them small, have limited resources and funding, and many have little medical experience.

But KIPRC is making headway. "Researchers were able to determine the specific drugs that were involved in 97 percent of drug overdose fatalities in 2016; that’s compared with 82 percent using death certificates alone," Casteel reports. The also used the surveillance system "to find which drugs were most commonly involved in deaths linked to a combination of substances, as well as which drugs were involved in overdose deaths among people of different age groups and genders."

Written by Heather Chapman - Posted at 1/17/2018 12:04:00 PM

@LAZ

 

January 13, 2018

Federal Approval Puts Kentuckians on a Path to Better Health


FRANKFORT, Ky. (Jan. 12, 2018) – Gov. Matt Bevin today announced that the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has approved the Commonwealth’s Section 1115 Medicaid waiver known as Kentucky HEALTH. The acronym HEALTH stands for “Helping to Engage and Achieve Long Term Health.”

Kentucky’s new program will improve the health of its participants, strengthen Medicaid’s long-term fiscal sustainability, and promote personal responsibility for health and well-being. Kentucky HEALTH introduces innovative delivery system reforms for the treatment of substance abuse, and a first-ever community engagement initiative for Kentucky HEALTH members designed to improve their health and strengthen Kentucky’s workforce.

“With federal approval of our Medicaid waiver, Kentucky will lead the nation in constructive changes to Medicaid," said Gov. Bevin. “This marks the first significant change to a federal entitlement program in more than 20 years. The result will be a transformational improvement in the overall health of our people and will provide a model for other states to follow.

“Kentucky HEALTH is specifically tailored with the unique needs of Kentuckians in mind. It will apply innovative approaches to improving our health, stability and quality of life. I want to publicly thank Cabinet for Health and Family Services Secretary Vickie Yates Brown Glisson, Education and Workforce Development Cabinet Secretary Hal Heiner, and the countless dedicated state employees who worked tirelessly to develop and secure approval for a program that will positively change Kentucky’s health narrative for generations to come."

CMS Deputy Administrator and Director for the Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services Brian Neale applauded Kentucky’s efforts.

“Today’s approval is the result of the hard work of Governor Bevin and his team and serves as a testament to Kentucky’s ongoing commitment to improving the lives of its Medicaid beneficiaries,” said Neale. “We look forward to reviewing the outcomes from Kentucky’s thoughtfully-crafted, groundbreaking demonstration, which will undoubtedly aid Medicaid reform efforts across our nation.”

The goal of this new program is to offer each member the ability to customize a path based on individual needs that will lead to better health, engagement in their communities, improved employability, and success through long-term independence.

“Kentucky HEALTH is a comprehensive, transformative plan empowering individuals to improve their health and well-being while ensuring Medicaid’s long term financial sustainability,” said Sec. Glisson. “Kentucky HEALTH also provides the opportunity for multiple cabinets within state government to coordinate and strengthen efforts to improve the quality of life for Kentuckians.”

“This program will put Kentucky on the national forefront of blending workforce and health programs that will ultimately put citizens in need on a path to better health and financial stability,” said Sec. Heiner. “We look forward to welcoming eligible Kentucky HEALTH members to our Kentucky Career Centers, and helping them gain the skills necessary to fill the hundreds of thousands of good-paying jobs that are available in the Commonwealth right now.”

Gov. Bevin unveiled the demonstration waiver known as Kentucky HEALTH (Helping to Engage and Achieve Long Term Health) on June 22, 2016. Since then, the Commonwealth has incorporated valuable feedback from consumers, providers, advocates and other stakeholders in developing the program. Additionally, Gov. Bevin has consistently said since submitting the 1115 application that these are the terms under which Kentucky is able to maintain expanded Medicaid. Accordingly, Gov. Bevin has signed an executive order directing the Commissioner of Medicaid to take necessary actions to terminate Kentucky’s Medicaid expansion in the event that a court decision prohibits one or more of the components of the Section 1115 waiver from being implemented.

Kentucky HEALTH is an innovative approach that will put Kentuckians on a path to better health, and is key to ensuring the long-term viability of the Medicaid program. In addition, Kentucky HEALTH will ensure availability of Medicaid resources to our most vulnerable citizens by saving an initial estimated $2 billion dollars (federal and state) over the waiver demonstration period, allowing these funds to be focused on those most in need and other critical areas. Additional program information will be shared in the coming weeks. In the meantime, more details can be found at www.KentuckyHEALTH.ky.gov.

 

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