Easily treatable, but don’t underestimate flu’s dangers

Influenza, or the flu as it is mostly known, is a respiratory virus that is most common in the winter time.

Seniors are at higher risk for complications from the flu. In people over 65 years of age the flu can lead to serious health problems like pneumonia and in some causes death.

Catching the flu is easy. It is passed through breathing in the same air as someone who is affected or by touching your eyes, nose or mouth after shaking hands or touching the same surfaces as someone who is infected.

Preventing the flu is just as easy as catching it. Getting your flu shot every year will make sure you are protected and, of course, washing your hands frequently is another way to ward off the flu.

Symptoms you may experience if you have the flu include:

  • fever
  • body aches
  • headaches
  • dry cough
  • sore throat

Although influenza is considered a common, easilty treatable illness, its potential effects should not be underestimated. Millions of people have died from influenza in past centuries during pandemics, three of which took place in the 20th Century.

Today, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that an average of 41,400 people in the U.S. died each year between 1979-2001.

Annual vaccination is especially important for seniors, since the CDC estimates that 90 percent of flu deaths occur in the elderly. Residents of nursing homes and chronically ill seniors are considered to be most at risk.

According to the World Health Organization, vaccination can prevent 70 to 90 percent of influenza cases in healthy adults, and up to 60 percent of cases in high-risk groups such as seniors.

Health authorities develop a new vaccine formula each year to combat the most prevalent viruses expected in the coming season. Flu vaccines are typically administered in the fall.

In addition, seniors should talk to their doctor about using the new product Fluzone High Dose, which is specifically formulated to help boost the immune system in older adults.

To learn more about preventing and treating influenza, visit the website of the CDC, which has a large archive of information resources and current news related to the flu.

The WHO also has valuable educational resources and monitors current flu outbreaks and expected seasonal trends.