Influenza, commonly referred to as the ‘flu’, is a severe respiratory illness that is easily spread and can lead to severe complications, even death. Each year in the U.S. on average, influenza and its related complications result in approximately 226,000 hospitalizations and over 23,600 deaths. Combined with pneumonia, influenza is the nation’s eighth leading cause of death. You can help avoid getting and spreading influenza by getting vaccinated each year.
All people 6 months and older are recommended to receive an influenza vaccination each year. The 2012-2013 flu vaccine will protect against three different flu viruses: an H3N2 virus, an influenza B virus and the H1N1 virus.
Children aged 6 months through 8 years of age who have never received a seasonal flu vaccine need to get two doses of vaccine spaced at least 4 weeks apart. This season, other children in this age group may need two doses as well.
Certain people are at “high risk” of serious complications from seasonal influenza. These include people 65 years and older, children younger than five years old, pregnant women, and people of any age with certain chronic medical conditions.
The best time to get vaccinated is as soon as the vaccine is available. You can still get a flu shot or the flu spray vaccine through the fall, winter or spring, since flu season usually peaks in February but continues through May. Many physicians’ offices and pharmacies have received supplies of flu vaccine. Individuals who lack health insurance should contact their county health department to inquire about free flu vaccine clinics.
Seasonal flu is not just a really bad cold. The flu is a contagious illness that affects the nose, throat, lungs and other parts of the body. It can spread quickly from one person to another. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death.
Flu viruses are spread mainly from person to person through coughing or sneezing by people with influenza. Sometimes people may become infected by touching something – such as a surface or object – with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose.
Every year in the U.S., on average:
• 5% to 20% of the population gets the flu,
• More than 200,000 people are hospitalized from seasonal flu complications and;
• About 23,500 (and as high as about 48,000) people die from seasonal flu.
• The flu vaccine does not give you the flu. It stimulates your body to produce antibodies. These antibodies provide protection against infection by flu viruses.
• The flu vaccine takes about two weeks after vaccination for the antibodies to provide protection against influenza virus infection. Until then, you are still at risk for getting the flu.
• Some people, such as older people, young children, and people with certain health conditions, are at high risk for serious complications from seasonal flu. Those who live or work with people who are at high risk should get vaccinated against seasonal influenza.
Click here for a list of flu clinics scheduled in New York by county. Many clinics will bill insurance companies directly under your insurance so be sure to bring your insurance information with you to the clinic.
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