Protect yourself from the flu

Protect yourself from the flu

(Related: A word about Ebola )

With the flu season now upon us, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a yearly flu vaccine as the first and most important step in protecting against flu viruses. The 2014–15 seasonal flu vaccine will protect you from a different combination of viruses than last year’s vaccine.

Available by shot or nasal spray, the flu vaccine is covered in full under all Independent Health plans. After receiving the vaccine, it takes about two weeks to develop protection from the flu. You can get the vaccine from your doctor’s office and at many retail pharmacies.

While nearly everyone can benefit from having a flu vaccine, people in the following high-risk groups should make sure they are vaccinated:
  • Children ages 6 to 23 months
  • Anyone ages 2 and older with a chronic illness such as heart disease, lung disease, diabetes or a weakened immune system
  • Adults ages 65 and older
  • Nursing home residents
  • Women who are or may be pregnant during flu season
  • People who take care of at-risk populations
  • Travelers and people living abroad

Please note: You should talk with your doctor if you’re unsure whether you should get the flu vaccine or if you are allergic to eggs since there is egg protein in some vaccines.

Additional precautions you can take

Good health habits can also protect yourself and others from getting sick. Here are some everyday steps you can follow to help prevent the spread of germs:
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes to help protect others. It’s best to use a tissue, and then throw it away. If tissue is not available, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow, not your hands.
  • Washing hands often with soap and water (for as long as it takes to sing the Happy Birthday song twice) will help protect you from germs.
  • When soap and water are not available, wipes or hand sanitizer can be used (hand sanitizer should be rubbed into your hands until they are dry).
  • Ensure you wash or sanitize your hands after using bathroom facilities and before eating.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • Practice other good health habits. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.

Symptoms of the flu virus

Even if you have received the flu vaccine, there’s still a chance you may get the flu. However, your symptoms won’t be as bad and you will recover more quickly. Call your doctor if you have any of the following flu-like symptoms for more than several days:
  • High fever
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Body aches
  • Diarrhea and vomiting (more common in children)

If you show signs of pneumonia, such as difficulty breathing, chest pain, productive cough, and severe chills, call your doctor right away.

For more information about flu prevention and treatment, visit www.flu.gov.

A word about Ebola

There has been some concern about the Ebola virus, as well as a great deal of misinformation. For timely, credible information and facts about Ebola, visit the CDC website at www.cdc.gov and the New York State Department of Health website at www.health.ny.gov.