Fewer Older People Hospitalized After Receiving Influenza Vaccine
September 24, 2017
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are recommending that anyone 65 years and older get their influenza vaccine – or flu shot – to decrease the likelihood of becoming ill this upcoming flu season. The flu is particularly dangerous for people over 65. The CDC estimates that somewhere between 71% and 85% of all seasonal flu-related deaths occur in that age group, as well as up to 70% of all the flu-related hospitalizations.
Although the flu can be present year-round, it is the most common throughout the fall and winter seasons. Typically, people start to fall ill from the flu starting in October, with the most active period being between December and February. After analyzing flu-activity data, the CDC found that the highest rate of infection is typically in December.
Older people are at a greater risk for developing complications from the flu because the immune system grows weaker with age. In more serious cases, the flu can cause complications such as viral or bacterial pneumonia, dehydration, heart, brain or muscle inflammation, congestive heart failure, multi-organ failure, asthma, diabetes or death. Because the consequences can be so much more dangerous, it is especially important for people 65 and older to get the flu shot at the start of each flu season.
In the United States, the flu causes roughly 200,000 people to be hospitalized each year. According to a new report from the CDC, the flu can take the lives of 3,300 to 49,000 people annually. In recent years the number has often been on the higher end of the spectrum, making the influenza vaccine one of the most effective and accessible prevention measures a person can take to avoid becoming deadly ill.
The CDC reports that most people who fall ill with the flu will recover in anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. Common symptoms of the flu can include a cough, sore throat, fever, feeling feverish, chills, runny or stuffy nose, respiratory symptoms without the presence of a fever, headaches, fatigue, vomiting, diarrhea and muscle or body aches. Doctors may prescribe antiviral medications to someone presenting with flu symptoms.
The influenza vaccine has been in use for more than 50 years and works by making the body develop antibodies roughly 2 weeks after administration. If a person contracts the flu, the antibodies can protect them from developing an infection. Vaccines typically guard against three types of the flu, though some may guard against up to four types. Although the effectiveness of influenza vaccines vary, the CDC estimates that they generally decrease a person’s chances of becoming ill by 50% — although sometimes up to 73%.
For people over 65-years-old, the CDC recommends making sure to get flu shots before the end of October. There is a “high-dose vaccine” made especially for people 65 and older; it has been shown to prevent 24% more people from getting the flu than the standard vaccination. A second option for the 65 and up age group is a flu shot called Fluad, which is supposed to create a stronger immune response and was approved for use for the first time in the U.S. during the 2016-2017 flu season. If you have any questions about different types of flu shots and which may be the best for you, please speak directly with a medical professional.
Other health tips from the CDC for people over 65 include:
- Talk to your doctor about getting pneumococcal (pneumonia) vaccines – they also protect against meningitis and bloodstream infections;
- Practice good health habits such as washing your hands frequently, covering your mouth when you cough and avoiding people who are ill, and:
- Seek medical advice or care if you suspect that you may be ill (coughing, sore throat, etc.) – the greatest health benefits come when treatment is given within the first 2 days of becoming sick
People over 65-years-old are not the only ones who are at an increased risk for serious complications from the flu. Children under age 5, pregnant women and people with certain heart conditions are also at a greater risk for serious illness or medical complications from the virus. To fight viral infection rates, the CDC recommends that everyone over 6 months old get his or her flu shots before October. Certain people should not get the vaccine for health reasons, so it is important that everyone talk with his or her doctor before getting one. To read more information about flu shots from the CDC, please click here: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/consumer/vaccinations.htm. Remember, flu season is just around the corner, so be sure to talk to your doctor about prevention soon!
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