The flu is cranking up in New York, and it's still worth getting a shot

New York State flu confirmed cases 2018-01-13

The number of lab-confirmed cases of influenza around the state this season (red) line compared to the last few seasons. / graph: New York State Department of Health

The number of influenza cases around New York has taken a sharp upswing in the last few weeks. And the state is asking people to take precautions. From a Cuomo admin press release:

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today called on all New Yorkers six months of age and over who have not yet received a flu shot to get vaccinated as soon as possible. According to the Department of Health, cases of influenza rose by 54 percent and new cases were diagnosed in all counties of the state over the past week. In addition, 1,606 New Yorkers have been hospitalized with laboratory-confirmed influenza, the highest weekly number since Department of Health reporting began in 2004.

Each winter requires a new flu shot because the versions of flu virus in circulation changes from season to season. It take about two weeks for your body's immune system to fully respond to the jab. And though the vaccine doesn't necessarily offer full protection, it can lessen the severity in people who do end up getting sick with the flu.

It's become easier in recent years to get a flu shot. You can get one at a primary care doctor's office, sure. But many pharmacies and clinics now offer them, too. And many health plans cover them so they're either free or low cost.

Getting a flu shot can be beneficial not just to you, but also the people around you. In fact, it's this group protection that might be one of the most valuable things about getting the jab. (There's a famous public health case study from Japan in which school children were vaccinated for influenza and it appears to have had a very large positive effect for elderly people.)

Also: Wash your hands regularly. Cough in your elbow. And if you're sick, stay home if you can.

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