Fall not only marks the start of the holiday season (see: Christmas decorations in retail stores in September), but it also ushers in the start of the new flu season.
“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that people get a flu vaccine by the end of October, just before the new flu season typically begins,” says Leslie Thompson, manager of Employee and Occupational Health at Sharp HealthCare. “It is important to get vaccinated in early fall as it takes about two weeks after vaccination to develop antibodies that protect against flu.”
While flu peaks in the winter months, it is often circulating earlier in the year. Thompson reports that confirmed flu cases have already been reported to San Diego County Public Health, and the first flu death this season recently occurred in Chula Vista.
To protect you and your family, flu shots are available through your health care provider or at any number of flu clinics throughout the community. Most health plans, including Medicare, will cover the cost of a flu shot with no copay. Patients should refer to their health plan for details. Sharp Community Medical Group, Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group and other local clinics now have the flu vaccine.
Parents of small children will welcome new guidance this year from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), which has advised parents to vaccinate their children with either the flu shot or the improved nasal spray vaccine. Last year, AAP had cited a preference for the flu shot over the spray.
Thompson, who oversees Sharp’s flu program to vaccinate its 18,000-plus workforce, says that while flu vaccine is an important part of preventing the flu, there are some other common-sense approaches to avoiding getting sick from both colds and flu:
- Wash your hands regularly with soap and water or hand sanitizer.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
- If possible, stay away from others that are sick, and stay home if you are sick.