Older adults are hardest hit by seasonal influenza. And unfortunately, if they contract the flu they are more likely to suffer serious complications from their illness.
According to research, more than 90 percent of deaths and 60 percent of hospitalizations due to flu occur in people aged 65 years and older. Last flu season illness was particularly severe for people 65 and older, with the highest flu-related hospitalization rates in this age group since U.S. officials began tracking this information.
Since so many cases of the flu were reported last year it has become a common misconception that the flu vaccine has little value. However, officials at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid claim, “there are plenty of reasons for people 65 and older to get a flu vaccination this year, and vaccination remains the first, best and most important step in protecting against flu illness and its complications.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is also urging individuals over the age of 6 months to get vaccinated, because according to officials it’s still the best protection against the flu.
Flu shots must be given every year because the influenza virus changes from year-to- year. The CDC recommends that the best time to vaccinate against flu is between October and mid-November. So now is the time! However, even after mid-November, older adults and people with chronic illnesses may still benefit from the flu vaccine.
The benefits of flu vaccination can vary — this is particularly true in people age 65 and older — studies showed vaccination can provide a range of benefits, including reducing flu illness, antibiotic use, doctor’s visits and even helping to prevent hospitalizations and deaths.
In fact, a recent study by CDC and Vanderbilt University experts found flu vaccination reduced the risk of flu-related hospitalization by nearly 77 percent in study participants age 50 and older during the 2011-12 flu season.
Other studies found that flu vaccination reduces the risk of death in older adults. For people with certain underlying heart conditions, several studies indicate that flu vaccination can reduce the risk of a heart attack.
If your health care provider has not yet recommended that you or a loved one receive a flu vaccination be sure to ask. The flu season is fast approaching!