2017-10-18 / Health Care

Flu Season Is Upon Us


Influenza, or the flu, is a dangerous respiratory (lung) infection that is very contagious. An annual flu shot is the best way to protect yourself and your family from it. Every year during “flu season,” the United States experiences influenza outbreaks beginning in the fall and winter, peaking between December and February and lasting as late as May.

The flu vaccine is updated every year to protect against new viruses and is safe and effective. The New York City Department of Health (DOH) recommends everyone aged six months and older get the flu vaccine every year.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends getting a flu vaccine by the end of October, but even if you get your vaccine later it is better than not getting vaccinated at all.

Getting a flu vaccine before the flu begins spreading is advisable, since it takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body that protect against the flu.

Even healthy people can be made seriously ill with flu potentially leading to other health problems, like pneumonia. Flu can also make existing health conditions, like heart disease, asthma, and diabetes even worse.

Thousands of New Yorkers die annually after getting influenza, according to the DOH, and the CDC cites more than 100 children in the U.S. died from influenza during the 2016- 17 flu season (as of July 2017). Caregivers of children under six months old, too young for the vaccine, should make sure to get vaccinated. Children younger than five years, especially those under two years, are at a higher risk for complications from flu.

Others at higher risk include: pregnant women, adults 65 and older, people with a weakened immune system or who are very overweight and people living in nursing homes or other care facilities. It is very important for health care workers or caregivers for people at higher risk to get the vaccine.

While flu deaths in children must be reported to CDC, flu deaths in adults are not nationally notifiable. CDC estimates flu has resulted in between 9.2 and 35.6 million illnesses and between 140,000 and 710,000 hospitalizations each year since 2010.

To get a free or low-cost flu vaccine, the DOH recommends asking your healthcare provider about the flu vaccine, as most insurance plans and Medicaid pay for it. Visit your nearest pharmacy, as many offer vaccines to adults, and check if your workplace offers the vaccine.

In Queens, NYC Health & Hospitals/Gotham Health operates clinics at 34-33 Junction Blvd., in Jackson Heights, 718-334-6150; and at 50-53 Newtown Rd., in Woodside, 718-334- 6140.

Lastly, DOH reminds everyone not to spread germs: cover your mouth and nose with the inside of your elbow when you cough or sneeze. Don’t use your hands and wash your hands with soap.

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