People 65 Years and Older and 2009 H1N1 Flu
The new 2009 H1N1 virus does not seem to be affecting people 65 years and older in the same way that seasonal flu usually does. Most people who have gotten sick from this new virus have been younger. People 65 and older are less likely to get infected with this new virus. There have been relatively few infections and even fewer cases of serious illness and death with this new virus in people older than 65. Laboratory tests on blood samples indicate that some older people likely have some pre-existing immunity to the 2009 H1N1 flu virus. But while people 65 and older are less likely to be infected with 2009 H1N1 flu, those that do become infected are at greater risk of having serious complications from their illness and there have been severe infections and deaths in every age group, including older people. Some outbreaks among older people living in long-term care facilities also have been reported. People 65 years and older are now encouraged to seek vaccination against 2009 H1N1. Influenza is unpredictable, but flu is expected to continue for months, caused by either 2009 H1N1 viruses or regular seasonal flu viruses. This vaccine is the best way to protect against the 2009 H1N1 pandemic virus.
Seasonal Flu Vaccine
People 65 and older are recommended to get seasonal flu vaccine this year, as always.
2009 H1N1 Flu Vaccine
The U.S. government has purchased 250 million doses of 2009 H1N1 vaccine, so anyone who wants to get the vaccine will have the opportunity to do so. While people 65 and older were not included in the groups recommended to get the earliest doses of vaccine, they are encouraged to seek vaccination now that vaccine supplies are increasing and many places have opened up vaccination to anyone who wants it.
The U.S. government has purchased 250 million doses of 2009 H1N1 vaccine, so anyone who wants to get the vaccine will have the opportunity to do so. While people 65 and older are not included in the groups recommended to get the earliest doses of vaccine, they can get the 2009 H1N1 influenza vaccine as soon as the high risk and younger groups have had the opportunity to be vaccinated.
People Age 65 Years and Older and Antiviral Drugs
Influenza antiviral drugs are prescription drugs (pills, liquid, or inhaled powder) that can treat flu illness. These drugs decrease the ability of flu viruses to reproduce in the body. While getting a flu vaccine each year is the first and most important step in preventing the flu, antiviral drugs are a second line of defense against the flu for treatment.
It’s very important that antiviral drugs be used early to treat flu illness in people 65 and older who are very sick (for example people who are in the hospital) and people who are sick with flu and who also have a greater chance of getting serious flu complications.
Although they are less likely to be infected with 2009 H1N1 flu, people age 65 and older are at higher risk for influenza related complications. Therefore, they are prioritized for antiviral treatment if they get sick with either seasonal or 2009 H1N1 flu this season.