'Tis the season for the flu and other illness, so it's crucial that older adults take the necessary precautions to avoid catching an illness.
According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in November 2013, about 40 percent of Americans had gotten their flu shot, which was about 3 percent higher than the amount of people who had gotten vaccinated at the same time in 2012.
LiveScience said that the increase is due to more adults getting a flu shot, but health officials believe there's further room for improvement.
"We are happy that annual flu vaccination is becoming a habit for many people, but there is still much room for improvement," Anne Schuchat, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said in the report. "The bottom-line is that influenza can cause a tremendous amount of illness and can be severe. Even when our flu vaccines are not as effective as we want them to be, they can reduce flu illnesses, doctors' visits, and flu-related hospitalizations and deaths."
Older adults are at an elevated risk of getting the flu
According to the CDC, children age six months through four years as well as adults aged 65 and older most need the vaccine because they are most vulnerable to the flu. These age groups make up approximately 69 percent of preventable hospitalizations due to the illness.
Currently, most parts of the U.S. are experiencing normal activity for the flu, said LiveScience. However, there have been elevated levels in some of the southeastern states such as Mississippi and Texas.
Protecting yourself in one aspect of the season that under your control, and it's always a good idea for your health and wellness to take precautions, especially if you suffer from other medical conditions that could become exacerbated by contracting the flu as well.
Last year, flu vaccines prevented 6.6 million people from getting sick, 3.2 million people from seeing a doctor with symptoms of the illness and 79,000 people from being hospitalized, according to the CDC's report. If 70 percent of all Americans had gotten a flu shot last year, an additional 4.4 million cases of the flu, 1.8 million doctor visits for symptoms and 30,000 hospitalizations could have been avoided.
If you haven't yet gotten a flu shot this season, it's wise to consider one. Older adults' immune systems may not be as strong as they once were, so it can be more challenging to fight off an infection. In addition, seniors who already suffer from certain medical conditions like asthma, diabetes and chronic lung disease are at a higher risk for developing serious complications such as pneumonia if they get the flu.