Fall has arrived so it’s time for older adults to get their flu shots. Or is it?
Older adults are at greater risk of serious complications of the disease than those under age 65, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They recommend that everyone get vaccinated by the end of October, if possible, as the best way to prevent the flu. Continue reading
Photo: CDC/ James Gathany
One year it was MERS. Last year it was Ebola. This year it’s Zika. Every winter it’s influenza.
Covering current and emerging infectious diseases is a mainstay of the health news beat because it touches every part of health care reporting, from policy to emergency preparedness to research to environmental health to hospitals to poverty and other social determinants and disparities. Continue reading
It’s the first week of January and winter seems to have finally arrived with a vengeance. In addition to the cold and snow, many older adults are also fighting this year’s flu.
The CDC reports the virus is widespread in 43 states — from New England to the Pacific Northwest. The flu can cause severe illness and life-threatening complications with older adults and those with respiratory problems at especially high risk.
Some 5 percent to 20 percent of the U.S. population gets the flu each year. More than 200,000 are hospitalized from its complications.
By the first day of 2015, CDC’s influenza surveillance systems were showing “elevated” activity, including increasing hospitalizations rates in people 65 years and older. CBS Atlanta reported that “flu-related hospitalizations for the elderly have doubled from this time last year” across the country. Media outlets report increased flu-related deaths among local elderly in recent days. Continue reading
The season of coughing is around the corner. Ads for flu shots and other vaccinations are getting thicker too. Vaccinations for older adults have new developments this year. A great place to start is this tip sheet from Eileen Beal.
Herd immunity: When writing about vaccines for a certain age group, remember that your audience is not just that group. Communities are protected by the entire immunity of their neighbors and friends. Elders housed in assisted living or nursing homes are at special risk. But college student volunteers, visitors, and grandchildren may need to read your story to avoid unwittingly exposing these older adults. This works backwards also. Older adults who lack up-to-date immunization for whooping cough (pertussis) can expose a newborn when Grandma and Grandpa visit. The booster that many may need is called T-DAP. Continue reading
In a story that could be replicated in many areas, The Morning Call‘s Tim Darragh writes that hopitals, both locally and nationally, are pushing hard for workers – both medical and otherwise – to get flu vaccines, as the Joint Commission moves toward stiffer requirements and CMS threatens to cut reimbursement rates for non-compliant hospitals.
Some of the Lehigh Valley region’s hospitals…. are mandating employees get flu vaccines if they have contact with patients — even if the employees don’t want the shots. If they don’t comply or get a valid exemption, they will be fired.
The list of staff affected by the policy is broad. It includes not only doctors and nurses and others directly involved in patient care but also housekeeping and maintenance workers.
Across the country, the stricter regulations seem to be making a difference, Darragh reports. A health system in Ohio has already issued termination notices to non-vaccinated workers, and even civil rights advocates known for taking the workers’ side admit that it is difficult to argue that hospital workers shouldn’t be vaccinated.
The ever popular (and quotable) Dr. Arthur Kaplan agrees.
Without greater compliance, the work environment won’t attain a level of immunity that will provide sufficient protection to the sick, said Dr. Arthur Caplan, a bioethicist at New York University’s Langone Medical Center. “You don’t get the ‘herd immunity’ until you hit 90 percent,” said Caplan, a proponent of mandatory vaccinations.