Avoiding the flu this winter

Protect yourself from the flu by getting your flu vaccination early, before flu season ramps up. Medicare covers many preventive services including the flu vaccine.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Medicare clients can:

• Get the flu vaccine at no cost. There is no coinsurance or copayment applied to this Medicare benefit, and people on Medicare will not have to meet their deductible.

• The flu vaccine can prevent the flu; it does not give people the flu. Getting a flu vaccine is the best thing you can do to keep you from getting sick this flu season. This year, one flu vaccine will protect you from three different types of flu virus, including the 2009 H1N1 virus that caused much illness last season

Additionally, by protecting yourself, you are also protecting those you care about from getting the flu from you.

• All adults age 65 years and older, and people who are younger than 65 who have chronic illness, including heart disease, lung disease, diabetes or end-stage renal disease should get a flu vaccine.

Helpful tips to follow during flu season:

• Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it. If you don't have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow, not your hands.

• Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners also work.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.

• Try to avoid close contact with sick people.

• Stay home if you are sick until at least 24 hours after you no longer have a fever (100 degrees Fahrenheit or 37.8 degrees Celsius) or signs of a fever without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.

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