PORTLAND, Ore. – Cases of the flu are increasing across the country, resulting in hospitalizations and deaths in isolated cases. Regence encourages people to get a flu shot, which is covered under Regence health plans, and to take other simple protective measures this winter.

This season’s early predominant flu strain is related to the particularly potent H1N1—the virus that caused the international pandemic in 2009 and killed an estimated 284,000 people worldwide. The H1N1 virus causes severe illness in all ages, but compared to other flu strains, it causes higher rates of illness and death among young and middle-age adults, including those with no underlying health conditions.

“We’re encouraging people to seek out flu shots because this year’s flu can cause very significant symptoms and lead to serious complications,” says Dr. Csaba Mera, deputy chief medical officer for Regence. “And for people with underlying medical conditions, it can be much worse, or even lethal.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), everyone who is at least 6 months old is strongly encouraged to get vaccinated. The CDC adds that those most at risk for severe complications from the flu include:

  • Pregnant women
  • Children younger than five, but especially those two or under
  • Adults 65 and older
  • Those with chronic health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, or asthma or other lung disease.

“In general, practicing good hygiene – things like sneezing in your elbow, washing your hands after you blow your nose, and avoiding hand shaking and hugging if you're sick – can help prevent spreading illness,” says Dr. Mera. “If you're sick, especially if you’re coughing a lot, you should consider staying home and do your part to help prevent the spread of illnesses.”

More information about the seasonal flu is available at Regence.com or from the CDC.

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