Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Flu Season is Underway in Virginia; How You Can Protect Residents Who are Most Vulnerable

The American Lung Association has advice for residents to protect the most vulnerable during flu season (Photo by Polina Tankilevitch from Pexels)

STATEWIDE — Flu season is officially here in Virginia, and we are seeing significantly higher flu cases as compared to last year, according to the Virginia Department of Health. To help prevent the flu in people who are at high risk for severe complications, the American Lung Association and Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Virginia released a toolkit specifically for caregivers of adults 65 and over through their “Fend Off Flu” campaign.

Influenza (flu) is a serious and highly contagious disease that can have severe health h consequences for all, and especially for vulnerable adults 65 and older, and those with chronic health conditions. The new toolkit is a resource to educate caregivers including healthcare providers and personnel in long-term care settings about the flu and the importance of vaccination to protect adults 65 and older.

“Nationally, 50-70% of flu hospitalizations were in patients over 65. Everyone over the age of 6 months should get a flu shot, as it can prevent illness, reduce complications, and reduce the spread of flu to more vulnerable household members,” said Maureen Dempsey, M.D., Senior Clinical Officer for Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Virginia. “The best way to reduce the risk of flu and its potentially serious complications is by getting vaccinated each year.”  

During the 2019 – 2020 flu season, it is estimated the flu sent approximately 380,000 people to the hospital with related complications and caused an estimated 20,000 deaths in the United States, which is why getting vaccinated should be a priority. The flu vaccine is the best protection against contracting and spreading the illness.

“Especially during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, routine vaccination is more important than ever,” said Caroline Hutchinson, Executive Director at the Lung Association. “Flu vaccinations have been in use for more than 50 years, with hundreds of millions of Americans safely receiving them. It’s recommended that everyone over six months of age receive a flu vaccine, but they are especially important for the 1,321,000 people in Virginia with lung disease, as well as their family members and caregivers.”

In addition to vaccination, the CDC recommends these everyday preventive actions.

  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Cover your cough and sneeze with a tissue or your elbow. 
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

The “Caregiver Flu Toolkit” is a comprehensive guide to educate caregivers of adults 65 and over about flu and the importance of vaccination to help protect them from contracting the flu. The free downloadable guide is available at Lung.org/Fend-Off-Flu.

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