The South Western Oklahoma Development Authority Area Agency on Aging (SWODA AAA) would like to remind older adults that Medicare covers the seasonal and H1N1 flu shots with no out of pocket costs for people covered by Medicare. The SWODA AAA urges all seniors to take advantage of opportunities to be immunized as flu season continues during the coming months. Each year nearly 30 percent of older Americans – and a higher percent of minorities – are not immunized against seasonal influenza. Older adults are at higher risk for complications from the flu, and approximately 36,000 (mostly elderly) die from the flu and its complications each year.
Seasonal flu season can begin as early as October and may last through March. The best time to get immunized for flu is in October or November; however, December or later is still recommended if a person has yet to be immunized.
All adults age 65 and older are advised to get a seasonal flu shot. People with Medicare who are under age 65 and who have chronic illness, including heart disease, lung disease, diabetes or end-stage renal disease should also seek immunization. Because the vaccine for flu changes each year, it is important to be immunized every fall or winter. People cannot get the flu from a flu shot. Pneumococcal vaccinations, however, are generally given once a lifetime after age 65.
Vaccinations for the H1N1 influenza virus became available in 2009 and are available again this year. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), this virus is probably spread the same way as the seasonal flu, including from person to person through coughing or sneezing by people with this virus or by a person touching a surface or object with flu viruses on it and then touching his or her mouth or nose.
Illness with the H1N1 flu virus can range from mild to severe. Most people recover without requiring medical treatment; however, hospitalizations and deaths have occurred. About 70 percent of those hospitalized have had one or more medical condition that placed them in the “high risk” category for seasonal flu-related complications, including pregnancy, diabetes, heart disease, asthma and kidney disease. While those age 65 and older are the least likely to become infected with H1N1 flu, those who do become infected are also at high risk of developing complications from the virus. As of this time, data from the CDC show that H1N1 flu has infected more people younger than 25 years of age than older people. There are relatively fewer cases and deaths reported in people 65 years and older, which is unusual when compared with seasonal flu.
For information on where to get flu shots, consumers should contact their physician, their local pharmacy, their local health department or log on to the Flu Clinic Locator at http://www.flucliniclocator.org.
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