If you haven’t gotten your flu shot yet this year, you shouldn’t wait any longer.

The Kentucky Department of Public Health reported the first flu deaths this season last week. Four people have died from the disease.

And flu activity is “widespread,” which is the most active official designation, meaning the fly is spreading rapidly and outbreaks are more likely.

All four deaths were people 18 years or older, according to the Kentucky Department for Public Health’s Weekly Influenze Surveillance Report.

Ten of Kentucky’s 17 regions have increased activity currently, and all 17 regions have confirmed flu cases, according to the report. There have been two outbreaks of the flu in long-term care facilities — a particularly scary occurrence because of the flu’s increased deadliness for elderly residents.

Of the confirmed flu cases reported to the state, more than 500 of them have been children between the ages of 1 and 10.

Here in Boyle County, we had five confirmed flu cases between Dec. 1 and Dec. 7; and six total this season.

With Christmas almost here, many will be spending special time with family members, including grandparents and new babies — both vulnerable populations who are more at risk of dying from the flu.

Flu shots can be obtained quickly and easily and are covered by most insurances. But it takes time — up to two weeks — for you to fully develop immunity to the flu after getting a shot. Since Christmas is now a little more than a week away, that means while you should definitely still get your shot, you should also be extra careful during family get-togethers if your immunity isn’t fully developed.

Shaking hands is one of the easiest ways for the flu to travel, so many people rightly do away with hand-shaking during flu season. Especially right now, when flu activity is so high, verbal greetings are a far better alternative to hand shakes.

The flu also spreads on door knobs and other frequently touched surfaces, because the virus can survive on hard surfaces for up to 24 hours. So it’s a good idea to wash your hands frequently, especially after navigating shared or public spaces. And it’s also a great plan to keep your hands away from your face at all times.

There are no flu shot shortages being reported currently, so there’s no excuse not to get immunized. While everyone can get the shot, it’s especially important for caregivers of children from 6 months to 5 years of age, for pregnant women; and for people 50 or older and their caregivers.

The more people who get the flu shot, the less likelihood there will be of any more deaths from the disease this time around. There are already four Kentucky families dealing with the loss of a loved one this holiday season; we don’t need that number to go any higher.

If you need to find out where you can get a flu shot, you can use the Centers for Disease Control’s flu vaccine finder tool at cdc.gov/flu/freeresources/flu-finder-widget.html.

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