What You Should Know and Do this Flu Season If You Are 65 Years
It has been recognized for many years that people 65 years and
older are at greater risk of serious complications from the flu
compared with young, healthy adults. It's estimated that 90 percent
of seasonal flu-related deaths and more than 60 percent of seasonal
flu-related hospitalizations in the United States each year occur
in people 65 years and older. This is because human immune defenses
become weaker with age. So influenza can be a very serious disease
for people 65 and older.
Actions To Take This Flu Season
- Get Your Flu Shot
The best way to prevent the flu is with a flu vaccine. CDC
recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older get a seasonal
flu vaccine as soon as it becomes available in your community.
Vaccination is especially important for people 65 years and older
because they are at
increased risk for complications from flu.
A flu vaccine protects against three different flu viruses: an H3N2
virus, an influenza B virus and an H1N1 virus. (See Vaccine Virus
Selection for the upcoming season’s exact vaccine
composition.) The vaccine has been updated for this season and
immunity wanes over a year, so you should get vaccinated this year
even if you vaccinated last season. Immunity sets in about two
weeks after vaccination.
People 65 years and older have two flu shots available to choose
from - a regular dose flu vaccine and a newer flu vaccine
designed for people 65 and older with a higher dose. The high
dose vaccine is associated with a stronger immune response to
vaccination. However, whether the stronger immune response results
in greater protection against influenza illness in older adults is
not yet known. The CDC and its Advisory Committee on Immunization
Practices have not expressed a preference for either vaccine.
- Take Everyday
Preventive Actions including covering coughs, washing
hands often, and avoiding people who are sick.
- Seek medical advice quickly if you develop flu
symptoms to see whether you might need medical evaluation
or treatment with antiviral
drugs. It's very important that antiviral drugs be used early
to treat flu in people who are very sick with flu (for example,
people who are in the hospital), and people who are sick with flu
and have a greater chance of getting serious flu complications,
like people 65 and older (see box for full
list of high risk persons/conditions).
Flu symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy
nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people may
also have vomiting and diarrhea. People may be infected with the
flu and have respiratory symptoms without a fever.