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Flu Season Begins; Protect Yourself

September 12, 2013

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 5 percent to 20 percent of the U.S. population will contract the flu this year, and nearly 200,000 will be hospitalized.

Flu season affects everyone, but seniors are at higher risk, because of the weakening of the immune system over time, and will account for 50 percent of hospitalizations. The flu is also one of the leading causes of death for African-Americans with diabetes. It is important to take the proper steps to keep you and your loved ones healthy, as the flu can lead to serious complications, like pneumonia.

Get Your Flu Shot

The best way to avoid contracting the flu is by receiving your annual flu shot. The CDC lists the vaccine as the most important flu season preparation and strongly recommends that people receive it annually, as the flu virus changes year to year. Not only does the flu shot keep you healthy, but it also prevents you from spreading the virus to others, like your spouse, children and grandchildren.

You can get your flu shot beginning in September, or as soon as the vaccine becomes available, or anytime throughout flu season, which can last as late as May. Besides getting your flu shot, you should take these steps to stay healthy:

Flu Symptoms

It is important to know the symptoms of the flu so you can receive treatment if you do contract it. If you are suffering from these symptoms, you may have the flu and should see your doctor:

Fever and chills

Runny or stuffy nose


Sore throat


Extreme fatigue or muscle aches

Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea (in some cases)

Don't Forget Your

Pneumonia Shot

When you are getting your flu shot, ask your doctor if you should get the pneumonia shot, too. The pneumonia vaccine can be given any time during the year. This is a one-time shot, but certain people may need a second shot.

If you have any concerns about getting these shots, talk to your doctor. He or she knows your health history and can help you decide what's best for you.

Dr. Judith Black is the medical director for Senior Markets at Highmark Inc.

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