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Ask a Health Care Professional – Flu

November 28, 2019

EUGENE SUN: Flu season is right around the
corner and it’s important to know what you can do to protect yourself and your love ones. Hi, I’m Dr. Eugene Sun, Vice President and
Chief Medical Officer of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico. Flu, or Influenza, is a very contagious respiratory
infection caused by strains of Influenza A or Influenza B viruses. It is a serious and potentially life threatening infection. Flu season in the United States can begin
as early as October and last as late as May. Flu is very different from common colds caused
by other viruses. While flu and colds can both cause coughing,
headache, and chest discomfort, the flu can often cause high fever, severe body aches
and serious complications, such as pneumonia. According to the Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention, or CDC, every year in the United States more than 200,000 people are
hospitalized because of the flu, and 30,000 people die from the flu. Elderly adults are more severely affected,
with 50 to 70 percent of hospitalizations and 80 to 90 percent of deaths related to
flu occurring in adults over 65 years of age. This is likely due to a combination of decreased
immunity to illnesses that occurs with aging and the presence of other medical conditions,
such as heart disease, lung disease, and diabetes. Children can also be more severely affected
by the flu. The most important thing you can do to protect
yourself is to get an annual flu vaccination. This vaccination is available starting in
early fall and is recommended for everyone over the age of 6 months. The vaccine is targeted against the most common
strains of Influenza virus predicted for that flu season and works by stimulating your body
to develop antibodies against those viruses. It takes about two weeks for the vaccine to
take effect. Ideally, it is best to get vaccinated as soon
as possible in the early fall, but if you are not able to, getting the vaccination at
some point during the flu season is better than getting none at all. Keep in mind that even though the vaccine
is effective, there is still a possibility you could get the flu. If you do, the vaccination may make the infection
less severe. Remember, if you have allergies to eggs or
have had a previous reaction to a flu vaccination, you should not get the vaccination. If you are not sure, check with your doctor. Another thing to keep in mind is that the
flu vaccine does not protect you from other viruses, so you can still get common colds. In addition to getting the vaccination, you
can help protect yourself and your loved ones by washing your hands regularly, staying away
from people who are sick, and minimize touching your nose, mouth, and eyes. With the right precautions, you can reduce
the chances that you will get seasonal flu, so you can stay healthy and enjoy this time
of year.

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