Flu season is here, and from now until March, people of all ages, particularly senior citizens, are susceptible to influenza’s debilitating effects. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), everyone older than six months of age needs to get a flu shot, not just senior adults and other “high risk” groups. This safe and effective vaccine is reformulated each year to provide protection against the virus strains that present the greatest public health threat for that year. This year’s vaccine is designed to protect against the H1N1, influenza B, and the H3N2 strains of seasonal flu.
Federal data on Flu.gov show that each year five to 20 percent of people in the United States get the flu, and more than 200,000 are hospitalized due to flu-related causes. The flu kills more than 36,000 people in the United States in an average year—and most of those deaths could be prevented with a simple vaccine. Also patients who get the flu are more likely to get pneumonia, one of the leading causes of death for older adults. Flu and pneumonia together make up the fifth leading cause of death in the United States.
“The bottom line is, anyone can contract the flu,” said Melinda Postal, director of communications at The Carolinas Center for Medical Excellence (CCME). “As soon as vaccines are available, it’s best to get your flu shot to protect your health and the health of your loved ones.”
Adults need only one dose of the vaccine annually. Children 6 months to eight years old may need two doses, depending on which vaccines they received last year. Contact your doctor’s office, your pharmacy, your nearest health department, or your local senior center to find out about flu shot availability. For those who are Medicare-eligible, Medicare Part B covers the costs of the flu and pneumonia shots.
For more information, visit www.cdc.gov/flu.