The seasonal flu makes headlines each fall and winter as outbreaks sicken many. In the spring of 2009, however, the flu dominated national media as we saw the emergence of a new and dangerous strain of the flu which rapidly spread throughout the United States. The H1N1 (swine) flu pandemic caused many to become ill as drug manufacturers raced to create an effective vaccine for this particular strain. This pandemic raised more awareness of the devastating effects the flu can have on some people and how important it is to take precautions and get vaccinated.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have expanded seasonal flu vaccine recommendations for the 2010-11 flu season to include everyone aged 6 months and older. There are certain segments of the population who should be diligent in getting a vaccine quickly, including:
- Pregnant women
- Children under 5, especially those from 6 months to 2 years of age
- Healthcare workers
- People over 50
- People with certain chronic health conditions
- People in nursing homes or other extended care facilities
- People who live with or care for those at high risk of flu complications
The seasonal flu vaccine is expected to be widely available this season given the new CDC recommendations. Vaccinations should begin in September or as soon as the vaccine is available. While the flu typically peaks in January or later, it can peak as early as October. It’s important to be vaccinated each year, since different strains of flu circulate and vaccines are made according to which strains are projected to be dominant. The 2010-11 vaccine contains three strains of the flu, including the H1N1 virus that began circulating in 2009.
Side effects are generally mild and may be similar to flu symptoms, including soreness, low-grade fever and aches. Most side effects generally last 1-2 days. In rare instances, a flu vaccine can cause serious problems. Contrary to myth, you cannot get the flu from the vaccine since it is an inactive virus.
While the best way to avoid the flu is to get vaccinated, you should also practice good health habits, including:
- Washing your hands thoroughly.
- Covering your cough.
- Staying home when you are sick.
- Avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
- Avoiding close contact with those who are sick.
Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi’s Healthy You! wellness benefit covers annual flu vaccinations at no out-of-pocket cost for covered members. Check with your Network Provider for availability. There are also some people who should not be vaccinated, so check with your healthcare provider if you have any questions. For more information on the flu and the CDC recommendations, visit the FLU.gov website .