In this era of medical advances, many people assume that if they get the flu, they’ll simply take medication to ease symptoms and recover in a few days.
But getting the flu isn’t the same as getting the common cold. Cold symptoms, which usually include sneezing, stuffy nose and sore throat, may appear gradually, while symptoms of the flu, which typically include headache, chills, fever and aches, usually appear abruptly. The flu can quickly become serious and even deadly. More than 80,000 people died from the flu and flu-related illnesses in 2017-2018, a record-breaking death toll, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
If you haven’t been taking the flu seriously, it may be time to reconsider. Here’s a look at the flu’s cost to our finances, our health and our society.
The financial cost
If you get the flu, you’ll need to see a doctor and pay for the visit and a flu test, or at least pay your copay if you have insurance. Doctors typically prescribe the antiviral Tamiflu, which costs more than $100 for a five-day course.
The flu can be debilitating and is extremely contagious, so chances are you will miss work. That can result in lost income—and most cases of the flu last one to two weeks. If your case of the flu turns into pneumonia or is severe enough to require hospitalization, you’ll also have to pay your portion of the hospital bill, which can be pricey even with insurance.
The physical cost
Coping with the flu is physically draining, especially for people older than 65 or younger than five years old. Often, the immune systems of older or younger patients aren’t able to fight the flu as easily as those in between. While many people with the flu experience fever, chills, headaches, persistent cough, sore throat, runny nose and fatigue, adults over the age of 65 sometimes experience different symptoms, including confusion or memory loss.
In some cases, the illness can cause additional complications that can be severe and even fatal. Some of the most common complications include bacterial pneumonia and sepsis, both of which can be deadly.
The societal cost
The annual flu season doesn’t just carry a cost for individuals and families: Our society also pays a hefty price. The flu results in an annual average of $10.4 billion in direct costs for hospitalizations and outpatient visits for adults, and $16.3 billion in lost earnings, according to the CDC Foundation. As a result, the flu virus takes a significant toll on American businesses and greater economy.
The first step to reduce those costs? Take the flu seriously and get a flu vaccine.