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Flu Season is Underway

Flu Season is Underway

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 seasonal flu.

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 influenza.

Sources:

https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/65over.htm

https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/vaccineeffect.htm

https://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/habits/index.htm

https://www.cdc.gov/flu/resource-center/nivw/about.htm

https://www.everydayhealth.com/news/why-older-adults-especially-need-flu-shot/

http://www.nfid.org/idinfo/influenza/older-adults-flu/flu-alert-factsheet.pdf