Influenza, commonly known as “the flu”, is a serious and potentially life threatening disease, especially in adults 65 years of age and older. Influenza is a common respiratory infection caused by influenza viruses.
The flu is easily passed from person to person through coughing, sneezing, or through contact with fluids from an infected person’s mouth or nose
Symptoms of the flu often include high fever, headache, tiredness, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, and body aches.
As we get older, our immune system typically weakens. This generally makes it harder for us to fight disease and may also make us less responsive to vaccines. As a result, adults 65 years of age and older are at increased risk of flu and its complications. For example, the influenza virus can cause worsening of chronic conditions and can even lead to death.
Each year in the United States, nine out of 10 flu-related deaths and more than six out of 10 flu-related hospital stays occur in people 65 years of age and older.
The flu can make existing health conditions worse, and it is especially dangerous for people with chronic conditions.
Most people don’t realize the dangers of the flu, which can include mild to severe illness, worsening of other health problems, hospitalization, and even death.
The flu is especially dangerous for people with chronic conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which commonly affect older adults.
86 percent of adults aged 65 and older have at least one chronic condition, and 68 percent of Medicare beneficiaries have two or more.
The best way to help protect against the flu is vaccination.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the single best way to prevent the flue is to get an annual vaccination, which is recommended for everyone 6 months of age and older, with rare exception.
Despite these recommendations, immunization rates among adults 65 and older could be better. The leading reason older adults do not get the flu shot is not being aware they need it.
Receiving the flu vaccination each and every year is the best way and first step to help protect yourself from the flu and spreading it to friends and family. For older adults, it’s important to get vaccinated early in the season.
A study shows that early vaccination is associated with greater benefit compared to later in the season.
There is a vaccine that is designed specifically for adults 65 years of age and older.
Adults 65 years of age and older have flu vaccine options—including the traditional, standard-dose flu vaccine and a higher-dose vaccine. The higher-dose vaccine is made specifically for older adults to address the age-related decline of the immune system.
An annual flu shot is a Medicare Part B benefit—this means that the vaccine is covered with no copay for Medicare beneficiaries 65 years of age and older.
Talk to your health care provider today about the dangers of the flu, the benefits of vaccination, and the best vaccine option to meet your needs.
For more information, visit www.ncoa.org/flu
Flu + You is an educational program from National Council on Aging and Sanofi Pasteur.