By JILL BERRY BOWEN, RN

Yes!  We typically think of getting flu shots in the Fall in advance of flu season, as that provides the maximum coverage.  However, with the height of flu season at hand, now is still a good time to boost your protection against getting sick and protect those around you by getting a flu shot.

Tracking data from the Vermont Department of Health (VDH) shows that reported cases of the flu spike significantly higher between late December and the end of April.  Based on current reports on the VDH website, that pattern is likely about to repeat itself. The flu is active in our community this year and we are seeing patients come to NMC with flu-like symptoms. That means now is the right time to get a flu shot if you haven’t had one already this season.  It takes about two weeks for your body to develop the antibodies to fight the flu after you receive the shot, so do not put it off.  Go get your flu shot today so you and those around you will be better protected over the next four months.

Why the concern about ‘those around you’?  While some people think they can tough it out if they get the flu, they may not recognize the risk that poses for others.  Some people experience the flu as a mild illness and will recover in less than two weeks.  However, for many others, the flu can be very serious.  The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) explains that the flu can cause complications such as pneumonia and bronchitis than “can result in hospitalization and sometimes death.”  Senior citizens, very young children, pregnant women, and individuals with chronic diseases such as asthma and heart disease are particularly vulnerable.  You many encounter many of those people in your daily travels to stores and work – and if you have not had your flu shot, you are at risk for transmitting the flu to them. That should be motivation enough for each of us to take the time to get a flu shot.

To get a flu shot, contact your Primary Care provider or speak to your child’s Pediatrician.  If you need help finding a Primary Care provider or Pediatrician, call Erin in NMC’s Community Relations Office at 524-1280.

Prevention is key to good health. It is far easier and less expensive to keep from getting sick than it is to recover once you are ill. As the new year arrives, take that thought to heart. Have you seen your Primary Care provider for an annual preventive visit? Have you had important preventive care (like the flu shot)? Are you getting a 15-minute walk in to your day, every day? Are you eating fruits and vegetables at each meal? Are you finding ways to relax and getting good sleep?  The new year is here and those preventive steps can help make 2019 a healthier and happier year – and that is my wish for you. Join so many of us in our community as we embrace a healthier lifestyle.  Small changes make a big difference. To learn more and get involved, visit www.RiseVT.org and join the fun!  Happy New Year!

Jill Berry Bowen, RN is CEO of the Northwestern Medical Center.