BATON ROUGE – Flu season is here. Health officials recommend everyone age six months and older gets a flu shot by the end of October for the best protection from the virus as winter months approach.

“Our focus has been on COVID-19 and the fourth surge, but we can’t let our guard down against the flu,” said Dr. Larry Simon, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana medical director. “It can be easy to forget about the flu because it is more familiar and more routine to us than COVID-19, but it remains a significant health risk. It’s important to get your flu shot so that we can prevent serious illnesses and avoid further overwhelming our health system.”

Like COVID-19, the flu, or influenza virus, is a respiratory illness that can cause death, hospitalization or severe outcomes, Dr. Simon added. Flu cases typically appear in early fall, and flu season lasts until spring, sometimes stretching as late as April or May, he said. 

“Getting your flu shot in October helps your body build up immunity before the peak of flu season, which is in wintertime, so you’ll have solid protection,” Dr. Simon said. “The holiday season and colder weather are a few weeks away. That’s when people are more likely to be gathered indoors, which makes it easier to spread illnesses. So, by the time Halloween gets here, make sure you’ve gotten your flu shot.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) recommends everyone six months of age and older get a flu shot. It’s especially important for young children, pregnant women, adults 60+ years old and anyone who has chronic medical conditions like diabetes, heart disease or asthma, as these groups are at a higher risk for severe complications from the flu.

Most health plans, Medicare and Medicaid plans cover the annual flu shot for $0 or very low cost. To find out how the flu shot is covered on your health plan, contact Customer Service at the number on your ID card. The flu shot is widely available at pharmacies, clinics and doctors’ offices statewide.

In addition to the flu shot, health officials also recommend everyone age 12 and older gets the COVID-19 vaccine for protection heading into winter months. You can call the State of Louisiana’s Vaccine Hotline at 1-855-453-0774 for help scheduling a COVID-19 vaccine appointment. The hotline staff can help you find vaccine locations near you or connect you with clinicians who can answer your vaccine questions. Or, visit the Louisiana Department of Health’s website to see a list of vaccine locations. You can search by parish to find a vaccine site near you, and you can see which types of vaccine are being given at different locations.

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