The current influenza season is expected to peak a bit early instead of waiting for February, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
With flu season now officially in Week 40, flu-related deaths are below the average this season, according to the CDC’s early January data—unlike in the winter of 2012 when flu cases soared beyond epidemic thresholds. Reported cases of flu-related pneumonia are also below the usual seasonal levels.
Most U.S. states are reporting widepsread influenza cases over the past two weeks. The most predominent virus strain so far this season is H1N1, followed by non-subtyped Influenza A.
Among those most susceptible to serious flu-related complications are young children, adults over age 65 and anyone with a chronic illness. People age 65+ account for more than half of those hospitalized for the flu and nearly 90 perecent of all flu-related deaths, notes the National Council on Aging (NCOA).
Even when vaccinated, older adults’ immune systems can react more slowly to the vaccine—or less effectively—than a younger person’s body will. “Most studies suggest that antibody responses to influenza vaccination are decreased in older adults, and it is likely that increasing dysregulation of the immune system with aging contributes to the increased likelihood of serious complications of influenza infection,” notes the CDC. One flu vaccine version, introduced nationally last season, is designed to assist the slower-reacting immune systems of older adults by offering four times the usual the antigen content compared to other vaccine versions, helping seniors create germ-fighting antibodies faster.
The NCOA’s annual flu prevention campaign, Flu+You, offers education materials for caregivers and residents on flu awareness for those over age 65, including toolkits for professional use in senior living spaces.
Read more from the CDC about the 2013-2014 seasonal flu virus and vaccines.