09 Jan This is how much the 2017-2018 flu season could cost you
The 2017-2018 flu season could become the worst flu season in years, medical experts have predicted, as a new strain of the influenza virus spreads. The flu costs the U.S. an average of $10.4 billion annually for medical expenses like hospitalizations in addition to $7 billion a year in sick days and lost productivity.
This year’s aggressive strain of illness could cost us even more, doctors say, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is encouraging Americans to get their flu shots if they have not already.
How much does flu prevention and treatment cost?
The best way to prevent the flu is to get the vaccine, even if it is imperfect. Most employers and insurance plans cover the cost of a vaccine for free. It is especially recommended for people who work in health or food industries. For those without insurance, it generally costs $40 or less. Some county health department offer free shots for seniors and other groups who are susceptible to the virus.
The CDC recommends certain high-risk groups — adults over age 65, children under 5 years, pregnant women, and individuals with chronic medical conditions — get treated for the flu with antiviral therapy.
And the cost of the vaccine is far less than the cost of contracting the flu. The average person pays about $130 for doctor visits and medicine when they have the flu. In addition to hospitalizations and lost productivity, employers pay an average of $135 per day when an employee calls in sick, according to statistics by Chicago-based outplacement firm Challenger.
How many people die of the flu each year?
The CDC estimates that every year since 2010, influenza has resulted in 9.2 million to 35.6 million illnesses, 140,000 to 710,000 hospitalizations, and 12,000 to 56,000 deaths in the U.S. The common virus this year, H3N2, is a variant of the H1N1 virus from 2009, known then as swine flu.
It has already sickened 233,400 people in Australia in the country’s flu season during July and August and has since hit the U.S.
In comparison, the H1N1 virus sent 274,304 people to the hospital in the United States from April 2009 to April 2010. In that same time period, 25% of people worldwide contracted the illness.
Why is this year’s strain particularly virulent?
This year’s flu season could be particularly intense due to a mutation of the virus that made the original iteration of the flu vaccine less effective. Some studies showed the vaccine was only 10% effective in Australia, but the CDC expects that the U.S. vaccines will be closer to 40% effective.
“Unfortunately, it’s impossible to predict exactly which strains of the flu virus will be most active in upcoming seasons, so it’s hard to make the perfect vaccine,” Bhayani said. “In general, studies show that the flu vaccine reduces the risk of getting the flu and flu-related hospitalizations by 40% to 60% among the general population.”
What should you do if you have the flu?
Often the only response required for treating the flu is rest and staying hydrated, according to the CDC, since most people who get the flu do not need medical care or medication. Infected individuals should not go to the emergency room unless they have very severe symptoms, including being unable to eat, having trouble breathing, and severe vomiting.
Alas, Antibiotics are only helpful for treating bacterial infections, but influenza is caused by a virus.
People who are at high risk for complications — young children, people 65 and older, pregnant women and people with certain medical conditions — may consider taking an antiviral treatment to shorten the length of the illness. If you are in that group, contact your health care provider, the CDC suggests.
Should you go to work if you feel up to it?
Another important measure to take if you have the flu is staying home. More than one-quarter of American workers admit to going to work when they are sick, largely because of their work load, according to a survey released Tuesday by the public health nonprofit organization NSF International.
Being a martyr at work is highly discouraged by the CDC. “Stay away from others as much as possible to keep from infecting them,” the CDC said. “If you must leave home, for example to get medical care, wear a face mask if you have one, or cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue.”