What to know about the flu

Getting vaccinated for seasonal influenza is fast, effective, and available at no cost to you. Beat the flu. It starts with you

beat the flu

While getting an annual vaccination for seasonal influenza (the flu) can help prevent those uncomfortable symptoms associated with the virus, it could also ultimately save your life (and the lives of those you love). “Influenza is a highly contagious and serious illness that still causes deaths each year,” stresses Scott W. Lindquist, M.D., state epidemiologist for communicable diseases and deputy health officer for the State of Washington. 

Symptoms of the flu include a fever, cough, body aches, and fatigue. While you’re most likely to contract the virus during flu season, it can happen outside of that time period, too. The ways in which you prevent the spread of any virus are similar.

During flu season, be sure to continue to use these stay-well strategies: 

  • Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water
  • If no sink is available, use hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol
  • Avoid touching your face 
  • Cough or sneeze into your elbow or a tissue; dispose of the tissue right away
  • Avoid being in close contact with people who are sick, if you can
  • Avoid being in close contact with others when in public
  • Sanitize commonly used surfaces 
  • Stay home if you’re sick

If you think you might have the flu, and you’re over the age of 65, talk to your doctor about receiving a diagnostic test to confirm the diagnosis. It’s important to do this within the first few days of showing symptoms. If you or someone you love is having trouble breathing, pressure or pain in the chest, new confusion, an inability to wake or stay awake, or showing bluish lips or face, call 9-1-1 immediately.   

While taking protective measures to avoid infection is an effective way to stay healthy during flu season, one of the most critical steps you can take is getting your flu shot. Here’s what you should know about this extremely important vaccination from Dr. Lindquist.

1. The flu is preventable
The flu vaccine is your best defense in preventing the flu and staying healthy. Every year, a panel of medical experts examines the types of flu viruses that are currently making people sick, as well as what types of flu people came down with last year. This helps them develop a vaccine for whatever flu strains are most prevalent that year. The flu vaccine is safe and effective.

2. Some people are more at risk than others
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most people who get the flu will get better in a couple of weeks. Some can develop complications such as pneumonia, bronchitis, or sinus or ear infections.

The following groups of people are at risk for more serious flu-related complications that require hospitalization, so it’s especially critical to get the vaccine if you or someone you love is:  

  • Under five years of age, especially those younger than two years old
  • Over age 65 
  • Pregnant or up to two weeks postpartum
  • Residing in a nursing home 
  • Native American 
  • Has a health condition like asthma, chronic lung disease, diabetes, or heart disease

3. You need to plan ahead for it 

The flu vaccine can take up to two weeks to work, so it’s important to get vaccinated as soon as possible. You can get your flu shot for no cost when you present your member ID at your in-network doctor’s office, retail health clinic, or pharmacy. 

  • For most AmeriHealth New Jersey members (who have individual insurance or are covered by their employer’s plan), if you pay out of pocket for your flu shot, you can be reimbursed for the cost up to $50. You can find the reimbursement form and learn more about flu coverage and benefits here

It’s also important to remember that the flu and COVID-19 may present in similar ways but are very different viruses. There is currently no vaccine for COVID-19, so it is more important than ever to stay up to date with the immunizations that are available to keep you healthy—and that includes your flu immunization. Let's all keep each other safe this flu season.

Don’t forget! Beat the flu. It starts with you.