By Dr. Mark Leenay
Think of the last time you felt ‘really’ sick. Not just your run of the mill cold, but totally out of commission with a fever, chills, headache, cough, sore throat, runny nose, fatigue and dizziness. If you’ve had the flu at any time in your life, odds are it’s still fresh in your mind. You’re not alone. The flu is so common that 2-out-of-10 people in the U.S. will catch the virus in 2017, typically in February – the last peak month of flu season.
When we are younger, infections like the flu come-and-go – but as we get older, the virus can become much more than a passing illness. The truth is seniors 65 and older are at a much greater risk of serious complications from the flu because their ability to fight off complications is simply weaker. It’s estimated that up to 85 percent of seasonal flu-related deaths have occurred in people 65 years and older; and up to 70 percent of seasonal flu-related hospitalizations have occurred in that same age group.
Regardless of age, one thing is certain – we should ALL get a flu shot. It’s been almost 80 years since the vaccine has been available, yet fewer than half of Americans get an annual flu vaccine! That means half of everyone reading this still needs to get their shot!
Flu season can last as late as May, so now is the time to get the vaccine. It takes about two weeks for your body to develop protective antibodies after getting vaccinated. While getting a flu shot is your single best defense against catching the virus, you can also prevent getting and spreading it by:
- Avoiding close contact with people who are sick
- Staying home when you’re sick
- Covering your mouth or nose with a cloth or your sleeve (rather than your hand)
- Not touching your eyes, nose or mouth
- Washing your hands frequently to help protect you from germs
At WellCare, we encourage all members to visit your primary care physician or participating pharmacy to get vaccinated to not only protect yourself; but your family, friends and coworkers. Here’s to a healthy 2017!
Dr. Mark Leenay was named chief medical director of care model in August 2016. He provides strategic leadership for the company’s care model and is accountable for the efficiency and effectiveness of WellCare’s clinical programs and services. He also works to improve the health and care experience of WellCare’s members while reducing overall health care costs.