Flu season is well underway and gaining traction with a strain that is especially dangerous for older adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In the past, seasons with predominant strains have been associated with more hospitalizations and deaths in adults aged 65 and older.
Data from recent years indicates that 70%-85% of seasonal flu-related deaths and 50%-70% of flu-related hospitalizations occur in older adults. Last year flu activity was low due to the spread of COVID and preventative measures such as masking and social distancing. The CDC said these measures could mean lower levels of community protection this year, and the agency anticipates high flu rates this year because influenza A and B are very active.
With the highly contagious COVID variants, Delta and Omicron, continuing to spread and cause concern, many individuals overlook getting a flu vaccination. Vaccination is the most effective way to protect oneself from the flu. The CDC recommends anyone six months and older get immunization to reduce the chances of severe illness, hospitalization, or death due to influenza. Older adults are at a higher risk for infection and developing serious complications due to lower immune defenses and other health conditions.
Flu vaccines are updated each season to combat current stains and effectively protect individuals from changing viruses. Individuals can receive the COVID vaccine and flu vaccine simultaneously, and safety has been documented in real-world usage. The CDC provides testing and management considerations for senior care residents with respiratory illness symptoms, including testing residents for both COVID and the flu, as well as providing information on antiviral treatments. According to the CDC, influenza antivirals can be used to reduce the risk of illness for residents exposed to the flu in a community setting.
Read more here. Download the flu and COVID testing and management tip sheet here.