Flu season is well underway, and although no one is immune from this annual
unwelcome bug, influenza poses the greatest threat to those age 65 and
older. In fact:
- Every four minutes, someone age 65 or above is hospitalized due to flu
or flu-related complications.
- Every 12 minutes, an adult who's 65 or older dies as a result of influenza-related
complications. It's estimated that from 70% to 85% of seasonal-flu-related
deaths occur in the 65+ age group.
- Combined with pneumonia, flu is one of the top 10 leading causes of death
in older Americans.
Perhaps most concerning, however, is this statistic:
- One-third of U.S. adults age 65 and older do not get vaccinated against
ATRIO Health Plans is dedicated to maximizing the wellness of older adults, and sees
National Influenza Vaccination Week—which is
Dec. 2 through Dec. 8—as an opportune time to increase awareness that, particularly for
seniors, skipping the flu vaccine can be a bad idea.
Flu Vaccines are Effective
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the flu vaccine
prevents millions of illnesses and flu-related doctor’s visits annually.
For example, during the 2016-2017 flu season, the vaccine prevented an
estimated 5.3 million influenza illnesses, 2.6 million influenza-associated
medical visits, and 85,000 influenza-associated hospitalizations.
Additionally, a study published this year found that from 2012 to 2015,
flu vaccination among adults reduced the risk of being admitted to an
intensive care unit with flu by 82 percent.
So, if you're in the 65-and-older age group and haven't yet been
vaccinated, it most definitely is not too late. Schedule an appointment
with your doctor to discuss any concerns and to review vaccination options,
such as a high dose vaccine that was shown in clinical trials to be especially
effective for those adults age 65 and above.
At this appointment, it's also recommended that you ask your doctor
about getting a pneumococcal vaccine to protect against pneumonia, meningitis,
and bloodstream infections. One of the most serious flu-related complications
facing seniors is pneumococcal pneumonia, which can be fatal.
Other Preventive Steps
While getting vaccinated is the most effective step to reduce the risk
of getting seasonal flu, there are plenty of other preventive measures
all older adults should take, including:
- If you know people who aren't feeling well—whether it's the
sniffles, a sore throat, or a cough—do not have contact with them
until they're fully recovered.
- If you're the one who's under the weather, stay away from others
until you're fully recovered.
- If you need to cough or sneeze, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue,
and then discard the tissue. If you don't have a tissue, cough or
sneeze into the bend of your elbow, not your hand.
- Regularly washing your hands throughout the day is one of the most effective
germ-fighting steps you can take. If soap and water aren't available,
use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
- Frequently disinfect countertops and other surfaces throughout your home,
especially when a household member is sick.
Seasonal flu unquestionably poses a serious threat to older adults, but
by getting vaccinated and taking other preventive steps, you too can outsmart