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Flu Season is Coming Soon. Are You Ready?

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Wellness Wise

woman with cold or fluThe Single Best Way to Protect Against the Flu is to Get Vaccinated Each Year.

Influenza is a potentially serious disease that can lead to hospitalization and sometimes even death. Even healthy people can get very sick from the flu and spread it to others. Cases of “seasonal flu” begin to show up in the United States as early as October and the season can last as late as May.

During this time, flu viruses are circulating in the population. An annual seasonal flu vaccine (either the flu shot or the nasal-spray flu vaccine) is the best way to reduce the chances that you will get seasonal flu and lessen the chance that you will spread it to others. When more people get vaccinated against the flu, less flu can spread through that community.

How Do Flu Vaccines Work?

Flu vaccines (both the shot and nasal-spray) cause antibodies to develop about two weeks after vaccination. These antibodies provide protection against infection with the viruses that are included in the vaccine.

The seasonal flu vaccine protects against influenza viruses that experts believe will be most common during the upcoming season. This varies from year to year so it’s important to get vaccinated each year, particularly if you are in a higher risk group. Ideally, you should get your flu vaccine as soon as possible after it becomes available for the upcoming season.

Where and How Can I Get My Flu Vaccine?

To make it easier for you to get your flu vaccine, your institution and your UT SELECT Medical and Prescription coverage offer many options:

  • Flu Shot Clinics at your institution: Many UT institutions will be offering Flu Shot Clinics within the next few months. Watch for more information at your institution.
     
  • Under the UT SELECT Medical plan flu shots and nasal flu mist are covered at 100% when services are received from a participating network provider. There is no copayment due when you visit a network provider for preventive care services only, such as the flu shot. (Other services obtained during the same visit may result in a copayment.)
     
  • The UT SELECT Prescription plan covers the full cost of the flu vaccine when received at retail pharmacies that participate in the Express Scripts network. To find a retail pharmacy where you can get the vaccine, please call Express Scripts customer service at (800) 818-0155 or visit the Express Scripts website. You must present your UT SELECT Prescription card (from Express Scripts/Medco) for 100% coverage of the flu vaccine at a participating pharmacy. A prescription is NOT required and the vaccine is not subject to the prescription plan deductible.

TIP: Be sure to use your UT SELECT Prescription card at the pharmacy. If you present your UT SELECT Medical card (from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas (BCBSTX)) when receiving the flu vaccine at a pharmacy, the pharmacy will require payment and you will need to submit a paper claim to BCBS for reimbursement. Also, if you have already gotten your flu shot at a network retail pharmacy and paid out of pocket, you may submit a paper claim along with your itemized receipt to BCBS to receive reimbursement. Download the BCBS medical claim form >

What Else Can I Do to Avoid Spreading Germs?

The flu is not the only concern when it comes to staying healthy. Other viruses, including norovirus which is quite common and can survive longer outside the human body than many others, can also be spread easily and can cause a variety of symptoms ranging from mild to serious. In addition to getting an annual flu vaccine, the CDC recommends following these everyday preventive steps to help slow the spread of the flu and other illnesses:

  • Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze;
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water;
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth;
  • Limit close contact as much as possible with those who are ill; and
  • Stay at home when you are sick and for at least 24 hours after fever is gone, except to seek medical care.

If an outbreak of flu or another illness occurs, always follow public health advice.

Sources: Key Facts About Seasonal Flu Vaccine, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); Take Action to Prevent the Flu, Centers for Disease Control and Preventin (CDC)