Protecting older adults from the flu


NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) – As we age, our immune system weakens. So when flu season strikes, people 65 and older are at high risk for complications, hospital admission, and death.

The flu shot the CDC says, is the best protection to reducing that risk. There are two available, specifically formulated for seniors.

“Their immune system is not as robust and this gives them a little bit stronger chance to really getting a good response to the flu shot,” says Dr. Zane Saul, Chief of Infectious Diseases at Bridgeport Hospital.

He goes on to say, “You should be asking yes, if you’re over 65 because it will give you better protection for the flu.”

How aging impacts the immune system’s ability to fight back against the flu is the focus of a number of studies.

At Yale School of Medicine, immunologist Dr. Akiko Iwasaki analyzed blood taken from healthy 65 and older adults – then compared it to samples from younger people between ages 20 to 30.

She says, “The ability for these blood cells to fight against the flu is actually affected already. So we know that these sort of natural innate immune defense is somehow impaired as we age.”

The hope is identifying the cause to develop drugs to boost that deficiency.

Seniors like Ann O’Keefe and Carol Velardi are ready for the flu season.

Asked if she knew there was a higher dose for seniors, Carol responds, “Yes. Did you ask for it? I didn’t have to. They said you should have this higher dose and that’s what we’ll give you.”

“Our doctors are top of it,” Ann says, “And they just tell us this is what you need, this is what you get and we follow through.”

The CDC also recommends that people 65 and older get vaccinated against pneumonia — a serious flu-related complication that can cause death.

Tomorrow at 5:30 – busting flu myths.

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