Just like clockwork, flu season is upon us. Each year in the United States, anywhere from 5 to 20 percent of the population will become infected with seasonal influenza, or the “flu.”
The flu affects the respiratory tract (nose, throat and lungs) and leads to approximately 200,000 hospitalizations each year from complications, many of which can be life-threatening.
People at highest risk for developing the flu include:
* Children younger than 5, but especially those younger than 2 years old
* Adults 65 years of age and older
* Pregnant women
* American Indians and Alaskan Natives
* Those with certain medical conditions like asthma, neurological conditions, chronic lung disease, heart disease, blood disorders, endocrine disorders, kidney disorders, liver disorders, metabolic disorders, weakened immune systems and individuals with a Body Mass Index greater than 40
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the peak flu season in the United States can occur anywhere from late-November through March. However, it’s difficult to know when the season will peak and whether vaccines supplies will last, so it’s strongly advised to get your flu vaccination soon. If you chose to wait, keep in mind that it takes your body about 2 weeks to develop an immune response against influenza.
Any vaccine can cause side effects. However, the most common side effects from the flu vaccine include a sore arm and/or low-grade fever, which generally go away within a few days. Vaccines are continually monitored for safety, and the benefits associated with them typically outweigh the risks. If you choose not to be vaccinated, keep in mind that you may put yourself at risk for the flu, as well as others around you (especially those in the high-risk category).
Call your doctor’s office to find out whether the flu vaccine is available. If not, many drugstores, community centers and schools offer flu vaccines for a reduced fee or even at no charge. If you’re an established patient at UCF Pegasus Health, the College of Medicine’s physician practice, special flu vaccination appointments are available for you on Mondays and Fridays from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m., and on Wednesdays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., while supplies last. You also may request a flu shot during your regularly scheduled appointment. Simply call 407-266-DOCS to schedule an appointment. Your insurance company will automatically be billed for your vaccine; most are covered at 100 percent.