It has never been easier to get your annual flu shot. Unlike last year, when the H1N1 outbreak required 2 separate vaccinations, this year’s flu shots protect against all of the current strains of the influenza virus, including H1N1. Most of the pharmacy chains in Harlem (RiteAid, Duane Reade, Walgreen’s, etc.), are offering the shots for $25 – $35 and they will accept your insurance if your plan covers it. There are also a number of community health clinics that offer flu shots for free or at a reduced fee. To find a flu shot location near you, click here.
Public health experts now recommend flu shots for everyone who is older than 6 months of age. They warn that influenza is not just a bad cold and every year thousands of people die from its complications; .young children, pregnant women, older adults and those with compromised immune systems, or who have chronic conditions such as heart disease or diabetes are at highest risk. Those who work or live with school age children and health care workers should also get vaccinated early because they have a high risk of exposure. I have heard people say that the flu shot “gave them the flu”; health experts say this is not true. Flu shots do not give you the flu but they don’t protect against all viral respiratory illnesses – you can still get a cold, which has similar synptoms, but the shot did not cause it.
So get your flu shot! If you are still not convinced, talk to your doctor or read more about it at flu facts on the New York City Health Department website. Here are some things they say we can all do to help prevent the spread of flu and other infections:
- Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze. Using a tissue or the inside of your elbow is better than using your hand.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- If you get sick, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever resolves and avoid close contact with other people.