The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has advised vaccination against the flu for people six months and older. Children under two, adults over 65, and those with a compromised immune system are particularly encouraged to get a flu vaccination. The risk of death or severe complications is far higher for these individuals than the general population. They also advise adults over the age of 65 to receive a pneumococcal vaccination in order to provide protection against pneumonia.
Although flu vaccinations do not offer 100% protection from the flu, it has been shown that individuals who contracted the flu after having been vaccinated tended to have a less severe infection, and were less likely to develop complications such as pneumonia. The risk of death for people who have been vaccinated is also significantly lower.
Between October 1 and March 2 of this year there were more than 26 million reported cases of the flu, resulting in approximately 13 million medical visits and 350,000 hospitalizations. Although it is rather late in the season for a flu vaccination, the CDC pointed out that flu activity still remains high throughout the nation. More importantly, they suggest that there is a second wave of influenza virus striking many states. Furthermore, the particular strain of influenza appears to be particularly severe.
According to Dr. William Schaffner, the medical director of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, doctors are still seeing a steady stream of patients being admitted to the hospital with influenza, even though the season is nearly over and cases should have been decreasing. According to the CDC, it is unclear when the flu epidemic will peak, but activity remains high in 48 states, with Puerto Rico also reporting high levels of hospitalization due to influenza.
Dr. Schaeffer pointed out that although the H1N1 virus strain dominated the beginning of this season, the H3 virus has become very common recently. Dr. Schaeffer said, “It’s been a ‘double-barreled influenza outbreak’ this year,” with H1N1 seen throughout most of the country and two waves of H3N2 infections in different parts of the United States.
The H3N2 virus generally produces more severe symptoms than H1N1. Numerous experts have pointed out that although there are many strains of the influenza virus, the H3N2 strain is especially likely to cause hospitalization and more likely to lead to pneumonia.
The takeaway: if you haven’t gotten a flu shot this year, don’t think you made it through the woods safely! It’s still important to get a flu shot, even now.
Beacon of LIFE, in Oceanport, NJ, is a government-approved PACE program created to provide seniors, their family, caregivers and professional health care providers the flexibility to meet their health care needs while continuing to live in their community.
Beacon of LIFE maintains an interdisciplinary team of professionals who give each client the coordinated care they need. Our staff specialize in working with older people, and work with each client and their family to develop the most effective plan of care.
Our care and services allow people who would otherwise need to live in a nursing home to live where they want — in their own communities, in their own homes.