According to a study last year out of the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, when healthy adults under age 65 get a flu shot, there’s a good chance they may also be helping older adults in their communities avoid the flu as well.
Researchers are finding the odds of having a flu-related illness were 21 percent lower among seniors living in counties with the highest flu vaccination rates among people 18 to 64 years old, compared to seniors living in counties with the lowest rates.
To see if reducing flu infections among these younger adults might protect seniors by reducing their exposure, the researchers obtained data from a CDC telephone survey that included information about flu vaccination rates among 520,229 adults ages 18 to 64 in 313 urban counties. The data covered eight flu seasons between 2002 and 2010.
Lead author of the study Glen B. Taksler of the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio reported recently, “Our study suggests that adults who have contact with the elderly should make a particular effort to receive an influenza vaccine. This includes both people who have elderly relatives in their households and people who have routine contact with the elderly.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend an annual flu vaccine for everyone aged six months or older, with rare exceptions. Nearly 24,000 deaths each year in the U.S., on average, are the result of influenza, the CDC estimates.
Nearly two-thirds of hospitalizations for influenza-related illnesses and about 90 percent of flu-related deaths occur among people 65 or older, according to the CDC. After seniors, the highest rates of flu-related complications and hospitalizations occur in young children and people of any age with certain underlying medical conditions.
“These higher-risk people have a limited ability to protect themselves from influenza, because flu vaccines are less effective in the elderly and in people with weakened immune systems,” Taksler said.
Young healthy adults are usually able to recover from the flu, but they can spread the infection to seniors and other higher-risk people in the community.
Is the flu vaccine effective against all types of flu?
Not necessarily. Seasonal flu vaccines are designed to protect against infection and illness caused by the flu viruses research indicates will be most common during the flu season. “Trivalent” flu vaccines are formulated to protect against three flu viruses, and “quadrivalent” flu vaccines protect against four flu viruses. Flu vaccines do NOT protect against infection and illness caused by other viruses that can also cause flu-like symptoms. There are many other viruses besides flu viruses that can result in flu-like illness (also known as influenza-like illness or “ILI”) that spread during the flu season. These non-flu viruses include rhinovirus (one cause of the “common cold”) and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which is the most common cause of severe respiratory illness in young children, as well as a leading cause of death from respiratory illness in those aged 65 years and older.
They do protect against the most common types however. So what’s the take- away? Get your flu shot, especially if you work or live near adults 65 and older. You could be not only preventing the flu for yourself but you may be saving the life of a senior as well.
Flu shots are available with no appointment necessary at AFC Urgent Care Danbury at 2 Main Street and at our newest location 100 Mill Plain Road.
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For more info, please contact AFC Urgent Care in Danbury at (203) 826-2140 or (203) 826-2600, or visit www.AFCUrgentCareDanbury.com.