We have had a particularly rough flu season this year. It started a month earlier than usual, arriving in early December, and has seem to have brought with it more severe symptoms that last longer than most years. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has reported that this year’s flu outbreak is the worst in a decade. Forty-seven states have experienced widespread flu activity, with 29 having high or severe levels.
Those who listened to the warnings from their doctors, friends and family members followed directions and went and got their annual flu shot. After listening to the current news you may be questioning why you bothered. In recent reports, the flu shot was proven to be only 9% percent effective in seniors. That is a staggeringly low percentage compared to past years.
For the average adult the flu vaccine is expected to be 60 to 70 percent effective, which is actually considered pretty good. For seniors, the effectiveness rate is typically around 30 to 40 percent due to lowered immune systems.
The reason for why the vaccine did so poorly in seniors is not clear, although it is thought that older individuals are accustomed to the strains from the past two years and had trouble adjusting to this year’s harsher strain. We also know that the elderly have weakened immune systems and are therefore more vulnerable to illnesses like the flu and complications associated with it, such as pneumonia. Unfortunately for many, this season brought upon the most flu related hospitalizations for people aged 65 and older in the last 10 years. Seniors should take this information as a warning that if you do experience flu like symptoms do not ignore them. See a doctor right away, even if you got the vaccine, as it could still be the flu.
Does this mean you should not bother getting the flu shot in the future? Absolutely not. Even though this year has resulted in a strong strain that seems to have gotten around vaccine protection, getting the vaccine is still better than not. Those who received a flu shot generally experienced less severe symptoms that may have landed them in bed rather than the hospital. Though February, the peak of flu season, is coming to a close, March can still bring on the illness. You still have time to get out there and get the vaccine for the final stretch if you haven’t yet.
We also continue to encourage home care caregivers to protect themselves. Not only will the flu take you down, but you could pass it on to your clients. By getting vaccinated, practicing good hand washing habits, and getting plenty of sleep you can continue to provide much needed home care services!