Don’t spread the flu to your family this holiday season!

By Richard Vienne

With more than twice as many confirmed cases of the flu this year than at this same time last year, you’ll want to think twice about skipping the flu vaccine. As of November 30, 2019, New York state logged 3,158 confirmed cases of the flu, compared to 1,462 confirmed cases at this time last year. There are different types, or strains of the flu. Health experts are seeing more cases of influenza B strains circulating this year, compared to last year. Nationally, there is significant circulation of influenza B, influenza AH1N1 and influenza AH3N2, with dominant strains varying by region and patient age.

The holiday season has many opportunities to gather with family and friends. Getting the flu vaccine now will offer a level of protection if you come into contact with someone who has the flu, and it can prevent you from getting the flu and spreading it to others.

Six of 10 upstate New York adults surveyed by Univera believe it’s important to get the annual flu vaccine, but last year, only half were vaccinated.

One person with the flu can infect other people one day before any symptoms develop, and up to about seven days after they become sick. The virus can spread to others who are up to about 6 feet away, mainly by microscopic droplets expelled into the air when people cough, sneeze or even talk. According to a 2014 study published in the journal BMC Infectious Diseases, every 100 people who get the flu will infect about 127 others.

For some people, the flu results in a fever, the chills, body aches, cough, and a runny nose. But for the very young, the very old, women who are pregnant, and individuals with compromised immune systems, catching the flu can place them at high risk for much more serious complications, including death. It isn’t always obvious who among us is most vulnerable.

It takes all of us getting vaccinated to keep our community safer this flu season. The flu vaccine is covered in full by many health insurance policies, and you usually don’t need an appointment to receive the vaccine at a pharmacy, so there’s really no excuse for not getting a flu shot.

Each year in the U.S., there are 2.5 million flu cases, resulting in hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations and tens of thousands of deaths. With more than twice as many reported cases so far this year over last, we could be in for a very severe flu season, warns Vienne.

The flu season lasts until May. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends annual flu vaccines for everyone 6 months and older. It takes about two weeks after being administered for the vaccine to provide protection, and it is never too early or too late in the flu season to get a flu vaccine.

Richard Vienne, D.O., is vice president and chief medical officer at Univera Healthcare.