Middle-Aged Women Among Groups at Higher Risk for This Year's Flu

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • I live in a metropolitan area that has around 175,000 people with three hospitals. So imagine my concern just a few minutes ago when a friend sent me a message through Facebook saying, “If you haven’t gotten a flu shot, you might want to….” It turns out her husband’s doctor had warned him that every ventilator in town is in use and more ventilators are being shipped into town.

    And we’re not alone in dealing with the flu. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has received a number of reports of severe respiratory illness among middle-aged adults as well as young adults. There also have been multiple hospitalizations related to the flu (specifically the influenza A (HINI) pdm09 (ph1N1), many of which required admission to the intensive care unit, and some fatalities have been reported.  “For the 2013-14 season, if pH1N1 virus continues to circulate widely, illness that disproportionately affects young and middle-aged adults may occur,” the CDC warned. Therefore, the CDC is recommending that anyone who is 6 months of age and older should get the annual influenza vaccination now.

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    The CDC points out that the groups of people who usually have the highest risk for developing flu-related complications are adults who are 65 years of age, children younger than 5 (and especially those who are younger than two), American Indians, Alaskan Natives, and pregnant women. Furthermore, people who have certain medical conditions can be at a higher risk for contracting the flu. These conditions are:

    • Asthma.
    • Neurological and neurodevelopmental conditions.
    • Chronic lung disease.
    • Heart disease.
    • Blood disorders.
    • Endocrine disorders.
    • Kidney disorders.
    • Liver disorders.
    • Metabolic disorders.
    • Weakened immune system due to disease or medication.
    • People who are morbidly obese.
    • People younger than the age of 19 who are receiving long-term aspirin therapy.

    But this year, it seems that middle-age adults are at risk. Several of the people I’ve spoken to say that they’ve got great immune systems so they don’t need the flu shot. That may be so, but I found a 2012 study that looked at immunity as we age. Researchers out of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County found that completely different groups in genes in fruit flies are responsible for fighting infection during early life and then mid-life. The researchers believe that the genes that are used at mid-life contribute to the age-related deterioration of the immune system in fighting infection. Interestingly, many of the genes that were identified in the flies also are found in humans.

    So you haven’t had your shot? What are the signs that you may have the flu? In general, the flu is worse than the common cold. People who have the cold tend to have a runny or stuffy nose, while people with the flu have symptoms such as fever, body aches, fatigue and cough that are more intense. Flu.gov points to the following symptoms:

    • A fever of 100 degrees Fahrenheit or higher or feeling feverish (because not everyone who develops the flu will have a fever).
    • A cough and/or sore throat.
    • A runny or stuffy nose.
    • Headaches and/or body aches.
    • Chills.
    • Fatigue.
    • Nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea.

    According to Flu.gov, you should seek immediate medical attention if you experience any of the following:

    • Difficulty breathing, including shortness of breath.
    • Purple or blue discoloration of the lips.
    • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen.
    • Sudden dizziness.
    • Confusion.
    • Severe or persistent vomiting.
    • Seizures.
    • Flu-like symptoms that improve, but then return with a fever and a cough that is worse than before.

    Primary Sources for This Sharepost:

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    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2013). Notice to clinicians: Early reports of pH1N1-associated illnesses for the 2013-14 influenza season.

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2013). People at high risk of developing flu-related complications.

    Flu.gov. (ND). Symptoms.

    ScienceDaily.com. (2012). Decline of immune system with aging may have a genetic cause.

Published On: January 03, 2014