BOSTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--As flu season rapidly approaches, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts (BCBSMA) encourages members to get a flu shot to help prevent the spread of the flu virus. By staying healthy, members can eliminate trips to the doctor or hospital, which will help reduce unnecessary health care costs. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the flu generates a cost of approximately $87 billion per year in the United States.
Vaccines play an important role in the effort to fight influenza. More than 23,600 people die each year from the flu and roughly 200,000 are hospitalized, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The most at risk are children younger than 2, people 65 and older, pregnant women, and patients with chronic diseases.
“This year, only one flu shot will be necessary to sufficiently protect people from most common and dangerous viruses, including the 2009 H1N1 flu as well as other seasonal flu strains,” said Dr. Tom Hawkins, a Medical Director for BCBSMA. “By taking a proactive approach to their health care, people can do their part to prevent the spread of the flu in the community, keep themselves and others out of the hospital, and help keep health care costs down.”
BCBSMA members can receive vaccinations at no cost when they visit an in-network health care provider, participating pharmacy, or retail flu clinic location. Many participating locations include: grocery stores, pharmacies, senior centers and BJ’s, Walmart, and Sam’s Club1. Members can also visit one of 20 participating CVS Limited Services MinuteClinics. To find a participating location visit: www.bluecrossma.com/flu, or call the number on the front of their member ID card.
Important 2010-2011 Flu Season Facts
- Who should get vaccinated?: The CDC and vaccine experts recommend that everyone 6 months of age and older get a flu vaccination unless they have a severe allergy to chicken eggs, or have had a severe reaction to a flu vaccine in the past. Members should always check with their doctor first if they have questions/concerns about getting vaccinated.
- One shot only for adults and children 9 and older: Unlike 2009, there will be no need for two separate flu shots. This year one shot will protect against the 2009 H1N1 pandemic virus and against two other seasonal flu strains (the H3N2 virus and an influenza B virus).
- Special instructions for children 6 months through 8 years of age: Those in this age range, who have never received a flu vaccination, may need two shots. Parents should check with their pediatrician first.
- Newly available to people 65 and older: Fluzone High-dose, approved by the Food and Drug Administration, is available to seniors. This higher dose of antigen in the vaccine may give seniors who are at a higher risk for the flu virus a better immune response. BCBSMA covers this vaccine when administered by a physician or other health care provider. People 65 and older interested in receiving the vaccine should check with their doctor.
Flu Symptoms and Treatment
The symptoms associated with seasonal flu strains include: fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills, and fatigue. Diarrhea and vomiting may also occur. If you develop flu symptoms, there are a number of steps you can take to get healthy:
- Call the Blue Care LineSM - BCBSMA’s free hotline, 1 (888) 247-BLUE (2583), where members can speak with a registered nurse anytime, 24-hours a day, 7 days a week.
- Call your doctor if you are very sick; were sick, got better, and are now getting worse or if you are in a high-risk group for complications.
- Drink hot liquids to rehydrate, soothe a sore throat, and unplug a stuffy nose.
- Don’t suppress coughs that bring up mucus, and don’t consume dairy products for several days. These products make it hard for some people to cough up mucus.
- Take acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen sodium. Children and teenagers should stay away from aspirin. As always, people should check with their health care providers to make sure that these treatments are appropriate.
- Get some rest!
Tips for Staying Healthy this Flu Season – Click here to watch a video
- Frequently wash your hands with soap and water. When hand washing is not possible, use antiseptic hand gels that contain alcohol. Teach your children good hygiene habits too.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. Throw out the tissue in the nearest wastebasket and immediately wash your hands with soap and water.
- Don't sneeze into your hand if you don't have a tissue. Instead, use the crook of your arm.
- Stay at least three feet away from people who are coughing or sneezing.
- Immediately wash your hands after contact with an ill person.
- Stay at home when you are sick and keep your children at home when they are sick.
- Ask for a mask when in the doctor's office or hospital.
For more information, visit the CDC website at: www.cdc.gov/flu. Massachusetts residents looking for up-to-date flu information should call the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, toll free, at 1 (866) 627-7968 or visit www.mass.gov/dph/flu.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts (http://www.bluecrossma.com/) was founded 73 years ago by a group of community-minded business leaders. Today, headquartered in Boston, BCBSMA provides coverage to nearly 3 million members. BCBSMA believes in rewarding doctors and hospitals for delivering safe and effective care, and in empowering patients to take more responsibility, become educated health care consumers, and become stronger partners with their doctors. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.
1 Not all locations may participate. To find a participating location visit: www.bluecrossma.com/flu
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