Keeping Influenza at Bay
Across the state, Florida families are back from vacation and preparing for back-to-school season, football season and more. With all this activity, it’s easy to forget that flu season is also just around the corner.
Influenza, or flu, viruses usually begin to show up in October, and the season can last through fall and winter or longer. The flu is very contagious. People with weakened immune systems, such as infants, young children and the elderly, can be at risk for severe illness and complications.
Families can lower the risk of bringing the flu virus into their households by following these tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- Keep it clean – Wash your hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based sanitizer to reduce germs. Disinfect things in high-traffic areas in your home and office, like doorknobs and keyboards.
- Keep your distance – Flu viruses can be spread up to six feet when an infected person coughs, sneezes or speaks! If you know someone has the flu, keep your distance, if possible.
- Keep covered –Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue.
- Keep hands away – One of the quickest ways for a person to catch germs is to touch a germy area, then touch their eyes, nose or mouth. Limit touching your face, especially while out in public.
- Keep the immune system strong – It’s easier to get sick if your immune system is weakened. Getting enough sleep, managing stress, eating healthy foods and staying active are a few ways to keep the body in fighting shape to ward off infection.
Your Best Bet: Get a Flu Shot
According to the CDC, getting an annual flu shot is the single best way to prevent seasonal flu. The more people that get a flu shot, the fewer community outbreaks tend to happen.
Since it usually takes two weeks for antibodies to build up in the immune system, it’s best to get vaccinated as soon as the shots become available. You can get a flu shot through your primary care doctor, at participating wellness centers or at retail pharmacies. Flu shots are covered at no extra cost for many Florida Blue members. Be sure to check your plan’s benefits before you head out to get one.
Flu Shot Quick Facts
- The flu vaccine protects against several strains of flu that will likely be the most common strains this year. These strains change from year to year.
- The flu shot cannot cause the flu. Reactions that some people get after receiving a flu shot are most likely the body’s immune response to the vaccination. While the person may feel sick, it is not the actual flu.
- The flu vaccine only reduces your risk; it cannot guarantee you won’t get the flu. If you do get the flu despite getting the flu shot, your illness is generally much milder.
- The CDC recommends that these groups of people should get the flu shot:
- Children younger than 5
- Adults 65 and older
- Pregnant women
- Residents of nursing homes or other long-term care facilities
- People with asthma; chronic lung disease; heart disease; neurological or neurodevelopmental disorders (such as cerebral palsy, epilepsy, stroke and brain disorders); blood, endocrine, kidney and liver disorders; and people with weakened immune systems.