The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a health advisory to clinicians on Tuesday, listing a summary of the agency's recommendations for the use of influenza antiviral medications for the 2012-13 flu season. Again the CDC listed certain groups as being at higher risk for complications from the flu, including people age 65 years and older and those with chronic health conditions such as asthma or heart conditions.
Higher Risk Conditions for Baby Boomers and Seniors
Although not everyone who is identified as being at higher risk for complications from the flu will necessarily develop those complications, people in these greater at-risk groups should seek medical help at the first signs of influenza:
* Adults age 65 years and older
* American Indians/Alaska Natives
* Those with chronic lung/pulmonary conditions; heart/cardiovascular conditions; kidney, liver or blood conditions, including sickle cell anemia; metabolic disorders including diabetes; neurological impairments or neurodevelopment conditions including but not limited to epilepsy, cerebral palsy, mental retardation, conditions affecting the brain and/or spinal cord.
* Anyone whose immune system is suppressed, including those taking medications that suppress the immune system such as HIV drugs or some of the newer classes of medications that warn severe infections are possible while taking the drugs, such as Enbrel (etanercept).
* People living in nursing homes or other group care facilities
* Those who are morbidly obese -- a body mass index of 40 or more
Flu Precautions for those Age 65 Years and Older
The CDC is advising people of all age groups that it is not too late to get the flu vaccine now. People age 65 years and older can choose between the regular flu shot or the high-dose shot that provides a stronger immunity to the illness. The agency explained that as people age, their immune systems weaken, causing those in this age group to be more susceptible to the complications that may arise from the flu, including death. Medicare covers the cost of the flu vaccination.
People age 65 years and older are also advised to consider receiving a pneumococcal vaccine that will help protect against pneumonia, one of the possible complications of influenza.
Everyday precautions are also urged for this, and all age groups:
* Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
* Avoid close contact with sick people
* Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth -- all are portals for germs
* Keep up your everyday health routines -- get adequate rest, drink plenty of fluids, eat a balanced diet, get moderate physical activity and avoid or reduce mental stress
Treatment for the Flu
If you develop symptoms of seasonal flu -- cough, sore throat, muscle or body aches, chills, fever, runny nose, stuffy nose, headaches, tiredness or vomiting and diarrhea -- you should contact your health care provider immediately if you are in any of the at-risk groups for flu complications, whether due to age or another condition.
The sooner an influenza antiviral medication is prescribed and taken, the more likely it is to be effective against the illness; ideally, treatment should begin within 48 hours of the first flu symptoms.
Avoid contact with others, staying at home except for medical visits and necessary errands -- such as going to the drug store/pharmacy.
If you have come into contact or are caring for someone who has the flu, contact your health care provider; he or she may prescribe an influenza antiviral medication as a preventive measure to you becoming ill with influenza yourself.