FALLS CHURCH, Va. --
Each year, flu season affects millions of people. Flu season usually begins in October, so now is a great time to protect yourself and your family by getting vaccinated.
The flu shot is easy to get and inexpensive – often free – for TRICARE beneficiaries, and this year the flu vaccine offers even more protection.
Until now, seasonal flu vaccines have only protected against three strains of flu - two strains of influenza A, which usually causes more cases and more severe illness, and one of influenza B, which is less common but also circulates in multiple forms.
The new vaccines include protection against a second strain of influenza B, which experts expect will prevent the vast majority of type B infections.
The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat and lungs. Symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, stuffy nose, body aches, headaches and fatigue. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the flu virus can be more serious for young children, older adults, pregnant women and people with medical conditions. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death.
TRICARE covers both the flu shot and flu mist. Beneficiaries may be able get their flu vaccine, at no cost, from a military treatment facility, hospital or from a pharmacist at one of the 45,000 network pharmacies that administer vaccines to TRICARE beneficiaries.
CDC officials also recommend steps to prevent the spread of germs, which can lead to the flu:
-- Avoid close contact with people who are sick;
-- Stay at home when sick;
-- Cover mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing;
-- Wash hands often with soap and water; and
-- Avoid touching eyes, nose or mouth.
CDC officials also recommend getting plenty of sleep, being physically active, managing stress, drinking plenty of fluids and eating nutritious food.