PITTSBURGH – Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, the Allegheny County Health Department and Area Agency on Aging are working to educate older adults about the dangers of the flu and the importance of receiving an annual influenza vaccination. The effort is part of a new national campaign from the National Council on Aging called “Flu + You,” which is designed to provide information to older adults, their caregivers and family members about influenza prevention and available vaccine options.
“Despite the risks influenza poses to older adults, about 33 percent of adults 65 and older in Pennsylvania did not get flu shots during the 2010-2011 influenza season,” said Area Agency on Aging Administrator Mildred Morrison. “Older adults are an important part of our community, and we want to help keep them active and healthy. That’s why understanding the risks and taking action to prevent influenza is so crucial for older adults.”
The immune system weakens with age, leaving adults 65 and older at highest risk for developing influenza and suffering its potentially deadly complications. Each year in the United States, more than nine out of 10 flu-related deaths and more than six out of 10 flu-related hospitalizations occur in people over the age of 65.
As part of the Flu + You campaign, the Allegheny County Area Agency on Aging hosted an educational event and flu clinic at the Homewood Senior Center this morning. County Executive Fitzgerald, AAA Administrator Morrison, and Allegheny County Health Department Acting Director Dr. Ronald Voorhees spoke to attendees about influenza and vaccination for their age group.
Vaccination is safe and effective and the best way to prevent influenza. In fact, annual influenza immunization is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention for everyone six months of age and older, including older adults. While it is helpful to take other preventative measures to prevent the spread of influenza virus, such as covering coughs, washing hands, and staying away from people who are sick, these cannot replace vaccination as the best method of protection.
“Even healthy older adults can suffer from serious flu-related complications like pneumonia, which can result in death,” said Dr. Voorhees. “Vaccination is the best defense against the flu, and I urge everyone to help protect themselves by getting an annual flu shot as soon as it is available each year and for older adults to understand how critically important this action can be.”
Adults 65 and older have two vaccine options available – the traditional flu shot, as well as a higher dose flu vaccine designed to address the age-related decline of the immune system in order to trigger a stronger immune response following influenza immunization. Both options are among the vaccines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention for adults 65 years of age and older, and both are covered by Medicare Part B with no copay. Older adults should talk to their health care providers about influenza and the vaccine options available to them.
For more information on vaccination clinics throughout Allegheny County, contact Andrew Rind at 412-781-1175 ext. 2060. Visit www.ncoa.org/Flu for additional information on the Flu + You campaign, including downloadable educational materials.
# # #