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Health & Medicine

When Should You Get a Flu Shot? Experts Say the Sooner, the Better...Just in Case

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Excellus Blue Cross/Blue Shield
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Although the flu season hasn’t arrived yet, Central New Yorkers just never know when it will hit.  A recent analysis conducted by Excellus Blue Cross/Blue Shield shows confirmed flu cases across the state have peaked at different times over the past four years. Excellus Vice President and Chief Medical Officer Richard Lockwood says it's better to get the shot whenever you can because it’s difficult to know exactly when flu season will come.

  

“The important thing is to get the flu shot," Lockwood said.  "Early in the season, late in the season...the problem is no one can time when the flu will occur.  If we look at the past several years, the peak in the flu season has varied from early January through mid-March,  there are still  cases of flu going on early.”           

Lockwood says some people assume that they should wait until later in the season to get the vaccination so that it would last through May and beyond.

“Generally, if you get vaccinated in September, your immunity will last through the flu season," Lockwood said.  "There may be some populations such as the elderly that the immunity wears off faster than for the rest of us.  But because of the problem with timing and not knowing when the flu will strike, it's best for people to get their flu shots sooner rather than later.”               

Lockwood says some think a flu vaccine can even prevent the common cold.  But he says the flu is associated with high fever and weakness that are very different from the common cold.

"Most of the time, people will get an upper respiratory illness, the common cold," Lockwood said.  "They assume, 'well, I've got a cold, and I received the flu vaccine.'  The flu vaccine doesn’t prevent the common cold.”          

About 45,000 New Yorkers some down with the flu each year.  Nationwide, the virus causes 200,000  two hospitalizations and nearly 24,000 deaths.