Quick Takes

Flu is rising in Louisville

By: - November 9, 2023 1:56 pm

It takes about two weeks for the flu vaccine to build immunity in the body, making now the perfect time to get the shot to protect from the predicted upsurge in the infection. (Getty Images)

Kentucky’s largest city is seeing a “significant” rise in flu’s presence ahead of normal peak, Louisville scientists said Thursday. 

The Envirome Institute, which operates through the University of Louisville, tracks wastewater in the city and reports trends in infectious diseases. 

The wastewater dashboard shows the presence of flu, which usually peaks in December and January, is on the rise and higher than this time last year. 

Statewide, flu cases are rising, but hospitalizations are not. As of Oct. 29, Kentucky had 885 flu cases

Louisville has 107 of those cases, the public health department reported in its Nov. 4 report, the most recent. There have been no outbreaks and no deaths so far this season. 

Ted Smith, associate professor of pharmacology and toxicology and environmental medicine at UofL, told reporters Thursday that the presence of flu in the city’s wastewater “has doubled in magnitude consecutively over the past few weeks.” 

“When we see those levels rising rapidly,” Smith said, “that would give us reason to believe that there is community infection and spread.”  

Wastewater data is an early warning system, said Dr. Kris Bryant, the associate medical director at the Louisville health department, a professor of pediatrics at UofL and pediatric infectious diseases specialist at Norton Children’s.

While the city isn’t yet seeing a lot of cases, she said, that’s coming soon. 

“The wastewater data would suggest that the upswing is right around the corner,” she said. “So what we think is that once influenza starts to go up in wastewater, that clinical cases will go up, probably, in a couple of weeks.”  

The Mayo Clinic says it takes about two weeks for the flu vaccine to build immunity in the body, making now the perfect time to get the shots. 

“Last year’s flu season was particularly severe for children,” Bryant said. “It is always shocking to know that some of those (180) deaths were in previously healthy children.” 

To locate a flu vaccine by ZIP code, visit this site. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends everyone six months and older get an annual flu shot. 

People who had a recent COVID-19 infection need only to wait until they are no longer infectious to get their flu shot, Bryant said. People can get their COVID-19 booster and flu shot at the same time. 

This may update.


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Sarah Ladd
Sarah Ladd

Sarah Ladd is a Louisville-based journalist from West Kentucky who's covered everything from crime to higher education. She spent nearly two years on the metro breaking news desk at The Courier Journal. In 2020, she started reporting on the COVID-19 pandemic and has covered health ever since. As the Kentucky Lantern's health reporter, she focuses on mental health, LGBTQ+ issues, children's welfare, COVID-19 and more.