While news about the Ebola virus dominates the national media, the annual campaign to promote flu shots mostly gets a collective yawn. Same thing every year. It's "just the flu." But on average, one in five Americans get the flu each year, and it kills between 3,000 and 49,000 per year, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC).
The most troubling thing about these numbers is that we have an effective vaccine for the flu, and it's easy to get. If you have WEA Trust health insurance, look into these options for getting flu shots:
1. A local pharmacy: If you have a pharmacy benefit through the WEA Trust, you can get a flu shot at no cost to you at most Wisconsin pharmacies. (Flu shots for State Health Plan members are only covered through your medical benefit.)
2. A worksite clinic: Your employer may set up a flu shot program where you work.
3. Network physician's office: Flu shots are covered at 100% and not subject to deductible, coinsurance, or copay.
Wisconsin lags behind
The CDC recommends that all Americans six months old and older get a flu shot every year. Too many Wisconsinites aren't getting the message.
Wisconsin is one of only three states in which the vaccination rate declined from the 2011-12 to the 2012-13 flu season. In the 2013-14 season, Wisconsin's vaccination rate of 42.3% of residents six months and older-with just over 38% for adults-was only 38th nationally.
Classrooms and office buildings: virus heaven
Classrooms and office buildings are notorious settings for spreading viruses, such as the flu, which can be transmitted through touch, bodily fluids, and through the air. Wash your hands or use alcohol-based hand sanitizers frequently when you're in contact with others. By far the most important preventive measure, however, is a flu shot.
There are different flu shots for different ages and conditions, but in general, the CDC recommends everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu vaccine every season. If you are uncertain, consult with your doctor.