For older adults, the seasonal flu can be very serious, even deadly, warns the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Ninety percent of flu-related deaths and more than half of flu-related hospitalizations occur in people age 65 and older.
Each year in the US, deaths from flu-related causes average of 23,600, and more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from serious flu complications. Here are the CDC’s recommendations for avoiding the flu:
1. Get Your Flu Shot
Getting vaccinated means not only protecting yourself, but not spreading the flu to your spouse, children and grandchildren. The CDC recommends getting the vaccine as soon as it becomes available in your community because it takes the body about two weeks to build up immunity. The immunity will last throughout the entire flu season (flu is most common in January and February, but can even continue into April).
If you are 65 or older, ask your doctor if the stronger vaccine for your age group is the right choice for you. The flu vaccine is safe and effective—know that because the influenza viruses in the flu shot are inactive, you can't get influenza from the vaccine.
2. Take Everyday Preventive Actions
Follow these healthy habits:
- Avoid people who are sick with the flu.
- Stay home when you are sick
- Cover your coughs and sneezes.
- Wash your hands often.
- Don't touch your eyes, nose or mouth.
- Get plenty of sleep, stay physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids and eat nutritious food.
3. Seek Medical Advice Quickly If You Develop Flu Symptoms
You might need medical evaluation or treatment with antiviral drugs. It’s very important that antiviral drugs be used early to treat flu in people who are very sick with flu (for example, people who are in the hospital) and who are sick with flu and have a greater chance of getting serious flu complications, like people 65 and older.
Flu symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people may also have vomiting and diarrhea. People may be infected with the flu and have respiratory symptoms without a fever.
A New Resource For Getting Your Flu Shot
Don’t let money stand between you and a flu shot. CVS Caremark recently announced that it is partnering with Direct Relief USA to offer up to $5 million in free flu shots to community clinic and health center patients who lack health insurance. Direct Relief USA is a non-profit organization that works with 1,100 clinics and health centers in all 50 states, providing them with free medications and supplies for their low-income and uninsured patients. A division of Direct Relief International, Direct Relief USA was formed in 2004 to deliver resources in the US and build the capacity of safety net clinics that provide services to the nation’s medically underserved populations.
Most of the facilities in Direct Relief's network are affiliated with either the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC) or the National Association of Free Clinics (NAFC). Flu vaccinations are now available at all CVS/pharmacy and MinuteClinic locations nationwide. Vouchers redeemable for a free flu shot at any CVS/pharmacy or MinuteClinic will be distributed by CVS Caremark and Direct Relief USA to participating clinics and health centers. These facilities will identify uninsured individuals from their existing patients in order to provide them with a free flu shot voucher.
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