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Think twice about skipping the flu vaccine this year
For Immediate Release: 2019-12-18
Rochester, NY –
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,” said Richard Vienne, D.O., Excellus BlueCross BlueShield vice president and chief medical officer. “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 Excellus BlueCross BlueShield 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.
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,” said Vienne. “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.
Data source: New York State Dept. of Health’s Flu Tracker: https://nyshc.health.ny.gov/web/nyapd/new-york-state-flu-tracker
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Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, is a nonprofit health plan with 1.5 million upstate New York members. The company's mission is to help people live healthier and more secure lives through access to high-quality, affordable health care. Its products and services include cost-saving prescription drug discounts, wellness tracking tools and access to telemedicine. With more than 3,500 employees, the company is committed to attracting and retaining a diverse workforce to foster innovation and better serve its members. It also encourages employees to engage in their communities by providing paid volunteer time off as one of many benefits. To learn more, visit ExcellusBCBS.com.