Experts request healthcare professionals learn how to protect seniors from influenza

The healthcare industry as a whole requires a better understanding of the challenges older Americans face to influenza immunization, according to a new brief issued by the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases.

According to the brief, seniors often have underlying chronic conditions that can be exacerbated by influenza infection. An older adult’s immune system may also affect his or her ability to respond to infection and a standard influenza vaccine.

The brief urges healthcare professionals to increase their understanding of these challenges as well as new protections available to seniors, such as a high-dose influenza vaccine for Americans age 65 and older approved in the United States in December 2009.

“Increasing vaccination rates is an ongoing and important goal, but we, as healthcare professionals, need to become more knowledgeable about the unique needs of our older patients and the new strategies for providing optimal protection,” said William Schaffner, MD, president of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases.

Some recommendations made to healthcare professionals in the brief include: embracing the universal influenza recommendation while practicing patient-specific care, demonstrating a personal commitment to influenza vaccination and understanding and utilizing new strategies for prevention.

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Brief: Understanding the Challenges and Opportunities in Protecting Older Adults from Influenza (PDF format)

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