FORT KNOX, Ky. (Jan. 31, 2013) -- This year's flu season is off to a fast start. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting it's seeing many more cases of flu earlier this year than it has in the past 10 years.

The best protection against the flu is to get vaccinated and the good news is it's not too late, since the flu season typically extends into March. What's more is that the flu shot is readily available, easy to get and inexpensive--often free--for Tricare beneficiaries.

The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat and lungs. According to the CDC, it can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. Certain people have a greater risk for flu-complications; they include older people, young children, pregnant women and people with certain health conditions and people who live in facilities like nursing homes. Those suffering from the flu often have a fever, cough, sore throat, stuffy nose, body aches, headaches and fatigue.

"Flu shots are intended to protect against the flu viruses that experts predict will be the most common during the upcoming season," said Dr. Andrew Plummer branch chief Population Health and Medical Management Division. "Each year, three different viruses are typically used to make the seasonal flu vaccine. Some people believe that the vaccine itself can cause the flu, but a flu shot contains pieces of killed flu virus that can't infect the body."

Tricare covers the flu shot and mist. Benefic-iaries can get their flu vaccine at no cost from military treatment facilities or from a pharmacist at one of the 45,000 network pharmacies administering vaccines to Tricare beneficiaries. Find a participating pharmacy at www., or call Express Scripts at (877) 363-1303.

The good news is that this year's vaccine appears to be a good match for the flu viruses that are circulating across the country. So isn't it worth a shot to get vaccinated and prevent the seasonal flu? To learn more on flu basics, treatment and prevention visit Information on Tricare coverage and where to get shots go to