By Dr. Melet Whinston
Amerigroup Washington
Chief Medical Officer

The flu season is here and making its rounds across Washington. Take precautions to keep yourself and your family healthy by getting a flu shot—your best defense against the virus, as it can strike when you least expect it.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 5-20 percent of the U.S. population gets the seasonal flu. More than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu complications every year. While the CDC and its Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommend everyone more than six months of age get a vaccine each flu season, some people are at a higher risk for serious health complications and should receive the vaccine as early as possible, including:

• Patients age 65 or older
• Children age 6 months-18 years
• Women who are pregnant or expect to become pregnant
• Patients with certain chronic diseases and illnesses

Does this sound like you?

I am afraid the flu shot isn’t safe or will make me sick.
You can’t get the flu from a flu shot. Talk to your doctor about your concerns.

I don’t know where to go to get a flu shot.
Call your Primary Care Provider (PCP), local health department or clinic.

I am healthy, so I don’t think I need a flu shot.
Even healthy people can get the flu. A mild case of the flu can make you feel awful and you can pass it to others. By protecting yourself, you can help protect them, too.

I am too busy or can’t take time to go for a flu shot.
Some clinics or PCP offices may offer flu shots after hours or on weekends. Consider how much time you’d lose or what you’d miss if you or your child got sick.

I don’t like needles or shots.
Ask your PCP about the nasal-spray flu vaccine.

Take precautions to prevent the flu this season by avoiding close contact with infected people, keeping hands away from the face, washing hands with soap and water, getting plenty of sleep, being physically active, managing stress, drinking plenty of liquids, and eating nutritious foods. Anyone with flu symptoms should contact their health care practitioner immediately to start antiviral treatment.

For more information about the dangers of flu and the benefits of vaccinations, talk to a health care practitioner or visit


(The following information was compiled by the International Examiner)

API flu info at a glance

• According to the Office of Minority Health, 56 percent of APIs received flu shots in 2011, compared to 53 percent of whites.

• At the International Community Health Services (ICHS) in Seattle’s International District, 31 percent of its clients (about 8,000 individuals) received flu shots through ICHS since September 2013.

• According to ICHS Operating Director Sherman Lohn, it’s not an unusual flu season. Plenty of vaccines are available to the API community. One peculiar note, however, is that this season’s flu is affecting healthier people.

• Non-English speakers usually do not get translated flu info unless there is an outbreak.

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