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Influenza is a type of sickness that can be fatal for seniors, especially those 65 years old and above.  It is particularly dangerous for people with other comorbidities – such as cardio vascular disease, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, chronic kidney and cerebrovascular diseases – who will be gravely at risk when they have to be hospitalized.  So, influenza vaccine is extremely vital for seniors in this category.  The vaccine has been perpetually developed to improve its efficacy and to enhance immunity in seniors and help alleviate influenza symptoms.

Contracting Influenza Can Be More Harmful to Seniors Than Expected

When seniors are infected by influenza virus, their health is also affected which results in:

  • 23% of them losing the ability to take care of themselves;
  • The risk of ischemic stroke increasing by 8 times;
  • The risk of coronary arteries increasing by 10 times;
  • Being 75% likely to have problem with glucose level, if they also have diabetes
  • 1 in 3 of them who are hospitalized becoming unable to return to normal activities within 1 year.

Symptoms of Influenza

  • Fever
  • Coughs
  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose
  • Body aches
  • Headache

If the condition is not too severe, the symptoms may subside by themselves after 3 – 5 days. However, for seniors with comorbidities, they are at a greater risk of a severe condition and may have to be hospitalized.


Influenza and The Risks Among Seniors

There are many adverse affects influenza has on the health of seniors, one of which is the elevated risk to a severe condition that can also be fatal.  The effects include:

  • Immunosenescence: Seniors are more prone to this condition.  So, when they are infected – be it by bacteria, fungus, or virus – the body becomes weaken and loses its healthful stability, leading to acute inflammation.  If it is not halted, the condition can be fatal.
  • Underlying Disease: When seniors get sick, their immunity declines and they will require longer recovery periods than the young.  This situation can open the door for other complications.
  • Frailty:  Though this is not a sickness, it is a condition between the ability and inability to perform normal activities, including being healthy or sick.  The situation is common among seniors who have been afflicted by influenza.

Preventing Influenza in Seniors

For seniors, the best way to prevent influenza is through regular annual vaccination.  Because the virus can mutate from year to year, the vaccine has to be thus modified accordingly before it becomes epidemic each year.  For Thailand, the time for vaccination is before the virus starts to spread – in May ahead of the rainy season and in October for winter – to prevent infection and reduce the risk of hospitalization and other complications.

Why Vaccine Specifically for Seniors?

According to a comparative study on efficacy of influenza vaccine for seniors against 4 strands of influenza among general public in the United States and Canada, it was found that the vaccine for seniors was 24.2% more effective in preventing influenza while reducing hospitalization rates for other related diseases such as pneumonia (by 27.3%), heart and respiratory diseases (by 17.9%), influenza (by 11.7%), and general trend toward hospitalization (by 8.4%).  The vaccine used was under the same regulation and safety standard as the general influenza vaccine.

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  • อมรรัตน์ จำเนียรทรง, ประเสริฐ สํายเชื้อ, การเปลี่ยนแปลงของเซลล์ในระบบภูมิคุ้มกันในผู้สูงอายุ, Thammasat Medical Journal, Vol. 16 No. 2, April-June 2016 หน้า 285-296

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