WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. -- Influenza is nothing to sneeze at. Infecting millions of Americans annually and causing tens of thousands of hospitalizations and deaths each year, the flu often affects society's most vulnerable.
With work and school in full swing, the fall season is ripe for the person-to-person spread of the flu virus. According to Dr. Barbara Alpert, a specialist in internal medicine, and Dr. Jill I. Ratner, a pediatrician, both with CareMount Medical, PC, if adults and children are looking to avoid being sick, it's important to get their vaccinations before flu season begins.
In preventing the flu, vaccinations have been shown to decrease many of the virus' dangerous side effects. These include reducing the risk of death and hospitalization from the illness, limiting the spread of the disease, reducing the number of cardiac events in patients with heart disease, protecting pregnant women from flu-related complications and providing babies of expectant mothers with important antibodies.
At particular risk for flu contractions are unborn babies and young infants. “Unfortunately, the number of pregnant women who get flu shots remains woefully low, even though the benefits of flu vaccine are clear,” said Ratner. In fact, a recent study showed that 97 percent of infants diagnosed with flu at age six months or younger had been born to mothers who had not received a flu vaccine during pregnancy.
In order to ensure healthy children, the CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that all children six months and older receive the annual flu vaccine, according to Ratner.
Flu shots are also critical for seniors over the age of 65, who as a group, account for the most flu-related deaths each year.
Both CareMount physicians recommend that those eligible for the flu vaccine -- which includes nearly all of the general population -- receive their shots as soon as possible. The vaccine takes several weeks to build antibodies, which should be in place well before flu season's peak in January and February.
Even after a flu shot, preventing the flu still requires safe practices. Both doctors recommend following these steps to avoid coming into contact with the virus:
- Wash hands frequently.
- Avoid putting hands on the face, especially after touching public surfaces like desktops, doorknobs and phones.
- Eat a well-balanced diet.
- Cover mouth and nose when you sneeze.
- If you're sick, stay home.
Visit your nearest CareMount Medical location to schedule a flu shot appointment.