What is the Flu? How Serious is it?
Influenza, also called the "flu," is a highly contagious respiratory infection.
Flu can cause fever, chills, headache, dry cough, runny or stuffy nose, sore throat, and muscle aches. Unlike other common respiratory infections such as the common cold, influenza can cause extreme fatigue lasting several days to more than a week. Although nausea, vomiting and diarrhea can sometimes accompany influenza infection, especially in children, gastrointestinal symptoms are rarely prominent. The illness that people often call "stomach flu" is not influenza.
Spread from person to person.
Influenza is spread easily from person to person primarily when an infected person coughs or sneezes. After a person has been infected with the virus, symptoms usually appear within 2 to 4 days. The infection is considered often contagious for another 3 to 4 days after symptoms appear. Because of this, people used to think the flu was caused by the "influence of the stars and planets." In the 1500s, the Italians called the disease "influenza," their word for influence. Each year, an estimated 10 to 20 percent of the population contracts influenza.
How often is it covered? Once a year in the fall or winter
For whom? All people with Medicare
Your costs in the Original Medicare Plan? You pay nothing
Information you need to know about the Flu vaccine:
How often is it covered?
Medicare covers the flu shot once per flu season. Flu shots are available starting in the fall for flu season.
Who’s eligible? All people with Medicare.
Your costs in Original Medicare You pay nothing for the flu shot if the doctor or other health care provider accepts assignment for giving the shot.
Note: Medicare Part B also covers administration of the H1N1 flu shot. You pay nothing if the doctor accepts assignment for giving the shot.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) : Influenza
- American Lung Association: Influenza
- National Foundation for Infectious Diseases
- Immunization Action Coalition
Medicare Demonstration Project Pays for Flu Medicines
Seniors who get the flu can get help paying for antiviral medicines under a new demonstration project. The Influenza Treatment Demonstration provides coverage to all Medicare beneficiaries for FDA-approved drugs for the treatment and targeted prevention of influenza. Under this demonstration project, Medicare will cover up to two prescriptions for certain anti-viral drugs for a person with Medicare
- with symptoms of influenza,
- or as a prevention measure for a person who has been exposed to a person with influenza, or
- in an institution where there has been an outbreak