BATON ROUGE, La – Winter weather is still weeks away, but health officials in Louisiana and nationally are already reporting higher-than-average rates of children being hospitalized for respiratory illnesses.
“We expect to see more cold and flu cases in colder weather as people spend more time indoors, making it easier to spread illnesses. But this year, we’ve seen a spike in these and other respiratory viruses, including COVID-19 and RSV, since late summer,” said Dr. Tracy Lemelle, a pediatrician and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana medical director.
Australia just had one of the worst flu seasons in recent years. Based on that, health officials are predicting a severe flu season here. Dr. Lemelle advises families to take precautions now, ahead of the late winter months that are the peak time for respiratory illnesses.
“As we approach the holiday season and make plans to gather with loved ones, it’s very important that everyone in your family who can gets their flu shot and COVID-19 vaccine or updated booster,” Dr. Lemelle said. “That will give you the best protection against severe illness, hospitalization or death. This can also lower your risk of getting sick and spreading viruses to others.”
STRONGER THAN The Flu
Health officials recommend everyone age six months and older get a flu shot each year, ideally by the end of October. It’s especially important for adults 65 and older, pregnant women, young children and people with long-term conditions like heart disease, diabetes or asthma, who are at higher risk for severe complications or death from the flu. This year, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) recommends adults 65 and older get a higher-dose version of the flu shot for stronger protection than the standard shot.
Blue Cross and most other health plans cover flu shots at $0 or very low cost. Flu shots are widely available at doctor’s offices, clinics, pharmacies, grocery stores, community health centers and other locations statewide. For more information, visit BCBSLA.com/Flu.
Blue Cross has partnered with Blue Krewe, the nonprofit operator of Blue Bikes in New Orleans, to sponsor free rides for flu shots. Through Oct. 30, Blue Bikes riders can use the code BeatTheFlu22 to get one free, 30-minute Blue Bikes ride they can use to travel to their preferred flu shot location.
For more information on Blue Bikes, visit BlueBikesNOLA.com or follow Blue Bikes on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @BlueBikesNOLA.
Updated COVID-19 Vaccine and Booster Recommendations
Federal health officials recommend the COVID-19 vaccine for anyone six months and older. In September, updated (bivalent) COVID-19 booster shots became available. These boosters protect against the more contagious omicron virus variants that have caused the majority of recent cases. The CDC recommends everyone age 5 and older get a bivalent booster shot once it’s been two months since their last COVID-19 vaccine or booster.
Blue Cross covers the COVID-19 vaccine and boosters at $0 out of pocket for eligible members of individual and employer health plans. Eligible members of Medicare and Medicaid plans or uninsured patients also can get a COVID-19 booster vaccine at no cost. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act requires this no-cost coverage. If you have questions about vaccine coverage on your health plan, contact Customer Service at the number on your member ID card.
Slow the Spread of Contagious Illnesses
Steps families can take to prevent spreading respiratory viruses and other contagious illnesses include:
• Wash your hands often with soap and water, or use hand sanitizer if washing isn’t an option
• Cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough
• Wear a face mask in crowded, indoor places, especially in areas with high rates of COVID-19 or other respiratory illnesses
• Don’t share plates, cups or eating utensils with others
• Clean high-touch surfaces like kitchen counters, bathrooms or desks frequently
• If you or your child have symptoms like temperature of 100.4 or higher, vomiting, diarrhea, coughing, sneezing, congestion or sore throat, stay home and contact your health care provider
Follow Blue Cross on social media @BCBSLA to see messages about various health topics. Blue Cross posts regularly on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and TikTok. Visit the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana YouTube channel to see short health and wellness videos. Subscribe to know when new videos are added.
About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana is committed to our mission to improve the health and lives of Louisianians. Founded in New Orleans in 1934, we are a tax-paying nonprofit health insurer with offices in every major region to serve our customers. We have been recognized for the past four years as an honoree of The Civic 50, named by Points of Light as one of the 50 most community-minded companies in the United States.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. We are a private mutual company, owned by our policyholders, with an independent Louisiana Board of Directors and no shareholders. We invite all Louisianians to visit our website at www.bcbsla.com or talk to us on social media @BCBSLA.