As the new school year approaches, I know me and my family should probably get a ﬂu shot, but I hate needles and I’ve heard people get sick after getting the shot. What are my alternatives and how much does it typically cost?
This is a great question, particularly in light of the fact that we are quickly heading into ﬂu season.
Inﬂuenza is a contagious respiratory illness that can be quite serious and result in hospitalizations and even death, especially in the very young and those over 65 years old, as well as people with chronic health conditions.
There are two main inﬂuenza viruses (A and B), but there are many sub-types. It is these sub-types that are determined to be circulating in any given year, and then these make up the ﬂu vaccine for that year.
Sometimes, there is a good match with the ﬂu virus that causes the disease that year and sometimes the match is not as perfect.
Inﬂuenza spreads by tiny droplets that are produced when infected patients cough, sneeze or talk. These generally land on the noninfected person. Less often, the inﬂuenza virus can be spread from contaminated surfaces.
The infected person is contagious beginning a day before signs and symptoms appear to up to ﬁve to seven days after. Symptoms of ﬂu include fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, muscle and joint aches, headaches and fatigue. These symptoms are much worse than the common cold or winter viruses that people mistake for the ﬂu. Complications like pneumonia can occur and often result in hospitalization and in a worst-case scenario, death.
Inﬂuenza can be diagnosed with a swab at your doctor’s ofﬁce, and there are medicines that can be prescribed to reduce the severity and duration of symptoms and prevent complications.
As mentioned, Georgia is one of the states experiencing a signiﬁcant ﬂu outbreak. There were 56 hospitalizations from ﬂu in the ﬁrst week of 2018. There have been 307 ﬂu related hospitalizations since the ﬂu season started, with 62 percent of those in people over 50 years old. There have been ﬁve deaths attributed to inﬂuenza thus far this season.
Flu vaccines are all injectable. There was previously a nasal mist live virus vaccine, but it is no longer recommended. A shot is practically painless as the needle is tiny and the amount of vaccine administered is small. Flu shots cannot give you the ﬂu. There is no live virus in the vaccine. However, there can be minor side effects or pain at the injection site, low grade fever and achiness that is usually short-lived.
The vaccine is covered by Medicare, Medicaid and all commercial payers, usually with no copay. For those with no insurance, a ﬂu vaccine can cost $20-$25. So, no matter how good or bad the match is for the current ﬂu, the vaccine will help to keep you from getting sick with the ﬂu, and if you do get sick, it will decrease the risk of complications.
Please remember, in some years up to 100,000 people nationwide are hospitalized with inﬂuenza and as many as 10,000 people die.
Protect yourself and those you love – get a ﬂu shot!