Although the current weather may not be indicative of flu season, Hannibal Regional Healthcare System medical professionals urge area residents to get a flu shot now.

Although the current weather may not be indicative of flu season, Hannibal Regional Healthcare System medical professionals urge area residents to get a flu shot now.

Each year, American employees miss more than 111 million work days due to influenza.

“That equals approximately $7 billion per year in sick days and lost productivity,” according to flu.gov.

The flu shot helps protect people against the constantly-mutating influenza strains. The shot offered at HRHS locations protects against four strains of influenza. It’s unclear what type of flu season the country will experience this season.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, “It’s not possible to predict what this flu season will be like. Flu seasons are unpredictable in a number of ways. While flu spreads every year, the timing, severity, and length of the season varies from one year to another.”

While the severity flu season remains to be seen, the effects of influenza can range from uncomfortable to potentially deadly.

“Sometimes the flu strains are so bad that people are really sick — high fever, coughing a lot, they don’t feel good, runny, sneezy, miserable,” Diane Slough, HRHS nurse practitioner, said.

Professionals encourage residents to get a flu shot now, before the season picks up.

“It takes about two weeks for your body to take in the injection, that vaccine, and build the antibodies you need to protect yourself against the influenza,” Slough said.

So it’s important, Slough said, to get the vaccine well in advance of the holidays, when people tend to share close spaces with more people.

“The flu shot is so accessible nowadays, there’s no reason you couldn’t walk in somewhere to get a flu shot,” Slough said.

If you got a flu shot last year, it’s important to get another on this year. Slough said what was covered in last year’s shot might not cover this year’s strains.

Anybody above the age of six months should get the flu shot.

Most insurance plans cover the flu shot. Check with your insurance providers. But for those without insurance, there are several affordable options to get a flu shot. The cost for a flu shot at HRHS is $25.

HRHS offers flu shots at family practice in the Medical Group building at 6500 Hospital Dr. from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday as well as at the Walmart walk-in clinic from 8 a.m. To 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Most primary care providers also offer the flu shot, as well as area pharmacies.

The author of this article received a flu shot on Wednesday, Oct. 21 with no pain and minimal arm soreness for a day. Medical professionals say the few extra minutes is worth it for a year’s protection against influenza.

Share a photo of yourself receiving a flu shot or afterwards on Facebook or Twitter with the hashtag #gotmyflushot to let others know that you’re protected from the flu bug this year.

Reach editor Eric Dundon at eric.dundon@courierpost.com .