October 7, 2018 Herb 0Comment
Photo Caption: National Institute on Aging

This year’s influenza (flu) season has begun (the viruses are most common in the fall and winter) and state health departments are gearing up their efforts to mobilize to combat this contagious respiratory illness.

Just over a week ago, at the Washington, DC-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) along with other public health departments, and health care professionals kicked off the 2018-2019 flu vaccine campaign.

At the September 27th press conference, the CDC early estimates indicate that “more than 900,000 people were hospitalized and more than 80,000 people died from flu last season.”  CDC says that these newly released estimates are “record-breaking, and emphasize the seriousness and severity of flu illness and serve as a strong reminder of the importance of flu vaccination.”

CDC statistic show the people age 65 years and older and those with weaker immune systems are at greater risk of serious complications from the flu compared to young healthy adults.  While flu seasons can vary in severity, during most seasons, these older adults are hit the hardest by severe flu disease.

According to the CDC, estimates that in recent years between in recent years, between 70 percent and 85 percent of seasonal flu-related deaths have occurred in people 65 years and older. Between 54 percent and 70 percent of seasonal flu-related hospitalizations have occurred among people in that age group.

Vaccinations Do Work

According to CD, a growing body of evidence indicates that Flu vaccinations have been shown to reduce the risk of flu illness, along with reducing the risk of serious flu outcomes that can result in hospitalization and even death.  The federal agency estimates that flu vaccines prevent tens of thousands of hospitalizations each year.

An August 2018 study’s findings indicate that flu vaccination lessened the risk of severe flu among adults, including reducing the risk of hospitalization and admission to the intensive care unit, and also lessened severity of illness. These benefits are especially important for people over age 65, at high risk of serious flu complications.  Also, vaccinations are beneficial to children younger than 5 years, pregnant women and people with certain underlying long-term medical conditions like heart and lung disease, or diabetes.

CDC says that a flu vaccine is the best protection against flu and recommends that older persons be vaccinated anytime between now and the end of October. CDC recommends an annual flu vaccine for everyone age six months and older.

Flu vaccines are updated each season as needed to keep up with changing viruses. Also, immunity wanes over a year so annual vaccination is needed to ensure the best possible protection against influenza. A flu vaccine protects against the flu viruses that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming season.

In addition to getting the flu shot, older persons should take the same everyday preventive actions. CDC recommends that everyone cover coughs, wash hands often and avoid visiting people who are sick.

Symptoms and Treatmentvaccines,

CDC recommends that if you get sick with flu symptoms call your doctor right away. These symptoms can include a fever or cough, sore throat, vaccines, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some might also have vomiting and diarrhea. But, people may be infected with the flu and have respiratory symptoms without a fever, too.

There are antiviral drugs, that your doctor can prescribe, that can treat flu illness and prevent serious flu complications. People who have influenza infection or suspected influenza infection and who are at high risk for serious flu complications, such as people 65 years and older, should promptly seek medical treatment.

Older adults with the emergency warning signs should immediately seek medical attention right away.  These include: difficulty breathing or shortness of breath; pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen; sudden dizziness; confusion; severe or persistent vomiting; and flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough.

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