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Getting a flu shot today can protect you, your family

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BY DR. DENISE LEONARDI
Chief Medical Officer, United Healthcare New Mexico

If you haven’t had a flu shot, the CDC recommends still getting vaccinated. The flu season typically peaks in February and can continue as late as May. You can help protect yourself and your family – as well as others you may contact – by getting a flu shot today.

If you are a typically healthy person who’s had a flu shot but think you may be experiencing a common case of the flu, start by calling your primary care physician, visiting a convenience care retail clinic or urgent care clinic, or consider a virtual visit that lets you see a doctor on your mobile device or computer.

Emergency rooms should be reserved for medical emergencies.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people who are very sick or who are at high risk of serious flu complications should be treated with antiviral drugs (such as oseltamivir, generic Tamiflu) as soon as possible if they develop flu symptoms.

Your primary care physician can assess whether an antiviral medication is right for you.

The greatest concern with flu is for the very young, very old, or people with co-existing medical conditions.

People who have the flu often feel signs and symptoms that start suddenly, not gradually. Watch out for a combination of these symptoms: high fever, muscle aches and pains, headache, and a persistent cough.
Certain groups who are experiencing these flu-like symptoms should be particularly aware of the need to seek medical care:


• Pregnant women should contact their obstetricians to report their symptoms.


• Diabetics, particularly those using insulin who develop difficult to control glucose levels, should contact their physician at first symptoms of the flu.


• Those who are immunocompromised should alert their physician of their flu symptoms.


• Patients with increasing shortness of breath, such as people who have chronic asthma or heart failure, should go to an emergency room for treatment.

And if you are sick with the flu, stay home to prevent spreading flu to others.

Most healthy adults may be able to infect other people beginning one day before symptoms develop and up to five to seven days after becoming sick, which means that you may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick.

As always, it is widely recommended that you wash your hands regularly and remember to cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze. A sneeze ejects 100,000 viral particles into the air that can travel 200 feet!

And remember, it’s not too late to get your flu shot. To find a list of flu vaccine providers near you, visit the Flu Vaccine Finder at cdc.gov/flu and enter your zip code.