Philadelphia, PA — This year’s flu season continues to be one of the most severe in nearly a decade, and flu activity is expected to remain elevated across the country for several more weeks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). As Greater Philadelphia’s leading health insurer, Independence advises those in the communities it serves to take proper precautions to prevent getting infected and to stem the spread of the virus.
First and foremost, Independence Chief Medical Officer Richard Snyder, M.D., advises that it is not too late to get a flu shot. The CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone six months and older.
“A flu shot is one of the best things you can do to stay healthy. Getting vaccinated can reduce your risk of flu infections and prevent medical visits, hospitalizations, and even death. Some data also suggests that even if you do get a vaccine and get sick, your illness may be milder,” Snyder said.
Flu shots are preventive services that are free — without copayment or coinsurance — when they are delivered by a doctor or health care provider in an insurance plan’s network.
Snyder also advises people who are very sick or are at high risk for serious complications (young children, pregnant women, and people with chronic health conditions) to contact their health care provider to get treated with flu antiviral medications as soon as possible after getting sick.
In addition to getting a flu shot, people can lower their risk of getting sick by following such recommended actions as:
- Washing their hands often with soap and water;
- Covering their mouths when they cough or sneeze; and
- Staying home and limiting contact with others if they are sick.
“And if you do happen to get the flu, you can help to avoid spreading it by avoiding highly populated areas and avoiding contact with those who may have weaker immune systems — like children, older adults, and those with chronic health conditions,” Snyder said.
For more information about the dangers of flu and the benefits of vaccinations, visit www.cdc.gov/flu. Independence members who are unsure about their benefits can call the Customer Service number of the back of their ID card.