Tuesday, 02 September 2014
Elder Health and Influenza
The Labor Day holiday always reminds me that it's flu shot season and even if I had forgotten, signs were already up last week at the supermarket pharmacies.
Maybe you know the statistics about flu and old people. Or maybe you don't:
• 9 out of 10 flu-related deaths each year occur in people age 65 and older
• As do six out of 10 flu-related hospital admissions
• Flu is particularly dangerous for elders with such chronic conditions as COPD, diabetes and heart disease. (86 percent of people age 65 and older have at least one chronic condition)
• According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) the best way for elders to avoid the flu is with an annual vaccination
• For elders, getting the flu vaccine early in the season is associated with greater benefit
Dr. Paul Sax, clinical director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and a professor at Harvard Medical School, notes in the September Harvard Health Letter:
”Although we know that flu activity starts in the early winter and subsides by spring, our ability to predict the severity of a given season is very limited.”
The CDC notes that people at high risk (elders, among others) should begin getting vaccinated soon after flu vaccine becomes available, ideally by October, so that as many people as possible are protected before flu season begins.
As in previous years, there are two kinds of flu vaccines this year – the traditional, standard-dose and the higher-dose made especially for old people whose immune systems suffer from age-related decline.
At the CDC's key facts webpage is a list of all the various flu variatioins including those for very young children, nasal spray and egg-free with links to explanations about each one of them.
As always, check with you physician before taking the vaccine.
An annual flu shot is a Medicare Part B benefit. tTis means that the vaccine is covered with no copay for Medicare beneficiaries 65 years of age and older.
The CDC has an amazingly thorough flu section at its website, probably more than you ever wanted to know but it is always good to have as much information as possible because individual situations can be so different.
And one more thing: don't forget everyday precautions for yourself and others:
• Wash your hands frequently to help prevent transmission of germs
• If you are sick, stay home so you don't infect others
• Stay away from sick people
Just last week, at a volunteer-related gathering, a woman sat down at my table as she announced that she had come out for the event even though she was sick. I doubt she had the flu this early in the season but she didn't say what kind of sick she was.
I have no patience for such irresponsibility, nor should you. I moved as far away as I could and still be at the table and I did not partake of the finger food she offered to share.
Flu - more formally, influenza - can be deadly to elders. Be sure you keep yourself and others as safe from it as possible.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, William Weatherstone: Paddy Rice – A Great Loss