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When it comes to the flu, think beyond yourself

We touch hundreds of public surfaces each day. These doorknobs, sinks and countertops all harbor germs and potential viruses that we cannot see. Knowing that these invisible threats are all around us, the flu vaccine is one of the most effective ways to protect yourself and others during flu season.

When it comes to getting the flu shot, Tina Mody, a clinical pharmacist at Moda Health, said people should think beyond themselves. Along with protecting yourself from the flu, the vaccine has a public health benefit, too.

"It's important to understand that while the flu might not be deadly for one individual, it can be for another," she said. "Getting the flu vaccine is the most effective way to avoid the flu for yourself and the people you interact with."

Katie Scheelar, manager of pharmaceutical programs at Moda, said one of the barriers of getting a flu shot is a person's perspective. Some see the flu as a mere inconvenience; if they get it, they'll just miss a few days of work before they're fine again. For those with chronic medical conditions, the flu can be much worse, even life threatening.

"We don't know the people we pass on the street each day who are undergoing chemotherapy, have low blood cell counts, or can easily acquire infections," she said. "Knowing that you have had a vaccine is important for your health, and for the health of others."

Along with getting the flu shot every year, Mody says there are other things we can do to protect ourselves, and others, from being exposed. Her advice for personal hygiene and flu prevention includes:

  • Wash your hands with soap often
  • Cover your mouth when you cough and sneeze
  • Get a proper amount of sleep
  • Drink lots of water to stay hydrated
  • Stay home from work when you are sick
  • Call nurse lines or tele-medicine services before going out in public

When it comes to our health, people can sometimes feel powerless. The good news is there are plenty of available tools that allow people to be more proactive about their health.

"We have an arsenal of tools that we can use to educate, or re-educate, ourselves about our health and risks," Scheelar said. "Why not utilize what's within our power to be proactive, stay healthy, and keep those around us healthy, too?"

While there are many materials and online resources that can teach us the benefits of flu vaccines, the fact is there are still a lot of misconceptions about the flu shot and immunizations, in general. To help break the stigma of flu shots, separate facts from myths, and raise the awareness of why it is important to get the flu shot every year, Mody and her team's annual flu campaign help spread the word to Moda Health members throughout the flu season. These efforts include:

  • Informational materials in member letters
  • Articles in member newsletters
  • Prevention tips in emails and social media channels
  • Reminders during member phone calls
  • Pre-recorded on-hold messages
  • Free flu shots at clinics and health fairs

Today, getting the flu vaccine has never been easier. Scheelar said open communications and more access to flu shots at your neighborhood pharmacy make getting immunized fast and easy.

"Having more access points is key," she said. "Getting a flu shot after work or on weekends at your local pharmacy is easier and takes less time than having to make an appointment with your doctor."

Protecting yourself may still be the top motivation for getting a flu shot. However, Scheelar said that when it comes to deciding whether or not to get the vaccine, thinking about others should be part of the process.

"Even if you don't get sick, you can carry the flu virus and can pass it on to someone who it can really impact," she said. "This is why it's important to look beyond yourself, to also think about other higher-risk individuals such as children and older adults who have lower immune systems. If someone can't be persuaded to get a flu shot for themselves, maybe they'll do it for others."

To learn more about flu prevention, go to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.

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