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Flu outbreak puts seniors at risk

January 10, 2013

Before the flu season began, many health experts warned it could be one of the worst in recent memory, and now that it's in full swing, those predictions have been proven right. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 82 percent of states have reported widespread instances of the flu, and many say their levels are higher than usual. The alarming news puts the well-being of most people at risk, but the flu outbreak could be even  more of a threat to healthy aging.

The CDC estimates that around 90 percent of deaths caused by the flu are in adults 65 and older, due largely to the fact that seniors have a weakened immune system. There is some good news, however, as this year's flu shot is well-suited to match the stronger strain. Senior health experts say getting vaccinated remains the biggest step older adults can take to protect themselves from the virus.

"Seasonal flu, and especially this year's fast-spreading flu virus, presents serious health problems for the elderly," said AARP Illinois State Director Bob Gallo. "There is still plenty of time for people to get the flu this season, and helping get seniors vaccinated will make a big difference in protecting those who are most at risk in our communities."

There are other steps older adults can take to lower their risk of contracting the flu, and many are part of a healthy lifestyle for seniors. There are many everyday habits seniors should follow, including regularly washing their hands, avoiding close contact with people who have been sick and not touching their eyes, nose and mouth. Additionally, habits such as getting plenty of sleep and regular exercise will help seniors boost their immune system.