When fall and winter roll around, so does the flu.
While seasonal flu viruses are detected year-round in the U.S., flu activity begins to increase in October. Most of the time that activity peaks between December and February, although it can continue as late as May.
When it comes to fighting the flu, the best defense is getting a flu shot, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices has recommended since February 2010 that everyone 6 months of age and older get a flu vaccine every season. It was during that winter that the committee voted for “universal” flu vaccination in the U.S. to expand protection to more people.
Most health insurance plans have 100% coverage for the flu vaccine. Check with your health care provider or insurance company for more information.
It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against the flu virus. That’s why, according to the CDC, it is best to get vaccinated by the end of October, before the flu season really gets underway.
Flu vaccines can reduce flu illnesses, doctor’s visits and missed days of work and school, as well as prevent flu-related hospitalizations. Flu vaccines also have been shown to significantly reduce a child’s risk of dying from the flu. There is data to suggest that even if someone gets sick after vaccination, their illness may be milder.
Because flu and other germs aren’t for sharing:
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offer the following suggestions to prevent the spread of germs:
• Avoid close contact with sick people.
• While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible.
• If you are sick with a flu-like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.
• Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. After using a tissue, throw it away and wash your hands.
• Wash your hands often, using soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
• Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs.
For more information, visit cdc.gov/flu.