October Signals the Start of Flu Season in Ohio
Buckeye Health Plan Offers Tips to Maintain Health
October is known for crisp weather, football games and pumpkin patches – as well as the start of flu season in Ohio. With last season’s record number of 17,000+ flu-related hospitalizations—more than twice the previous season, as reported by the Ohio Department of Health—it’s important for everyone to get protected through vaccination and proper hygiene.
Up to 20 percent of Americans get the flu each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Four Ohio children were among the 179 people who died from the flu nationwide—the CDC estimates that approximately 80 percent of those deaths occurred in children who had not received a flu vaccination that season1.
“We recommend everyone six months and older get a flu shot each year, ideally by end of October. It takes two weeks after getting the shot for the antibodies that protect against the flu to fully develop,” says Dr. Cheryl Morrow-White from Buckeye Health Plan. “However, if you don’t have your shot by then, you should still get one. The vaccine is still beneficial during any point of flu season, even as late as January.”
Buckeye has several programs to help its members and the entire community stay healthy this flu season. Members can receive a FREE flu vaccine through their doctor or at a pharmacy close to them. Members under 5 or over 50-years-old receive additional benefits-related rewards for getting a flu shot.
“Some people worry that the flu shot will cause them to get the flu, so they avoid it,” says Dr. Morrow-White. “The truth is the vaccine is made from an inactivated virus that can't transmit infection. So people who get sick after getting their flu shot were going to get sick anyway.”
Vaccination and good hygiene are key to preventing the flu and staying healthy this flu season. While everyone should get the flu shot, the CDC notes it’s especially important for the following groups who are at higher-risk for complication:
- Pregnant women
- Children younger than age 5, but especially children younger than age 2
- People 65 years of age and older
- People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions
In addition to the flu shot, maintaining healthy habits can help your body ward off flu and other illnesses. “Washing hands thoroughly is one of the most critical and simple things we can do to prevent flu and other illness,” says Dr. Morrow-White. “And yet it’s something we don’t do often enough. That, along with other healthy habits like getting enough sleep and exercise, avoiding stress and eating a healthy diet are your best defense against the flu.”