Flu: Who’s at Risk?

When it comes to the flu, not all demographics are treated equally. And while the flu can potentially affect anyone, certain people are at a higher risk for flu-related complications (similar to pneumonia and bronchitis), which can lead to hospitalization, or even death.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have identified the following groups to be at high risk of the flu:

Children: Did you know that flu is more dangerous than the common cold for children? Each year, flu poses a significant burden on the health and wellness of children and families. Kids under 5 years of age, and especially children younger than 2 years old are at higher risk. The CDC recommends that all children 6 months and older get a flu vaccine.

Seniors: Individuals 65 years and older are at greater risk of serious complications from the flu, compared with young, healthy adults. It’s estimated that 90 percent of seasonal flu-related deaths and 50-60 percent of seasonal flu-related hospitalizations in the United States occur in people 65 years or older. This is largely due to the human immune defenses becoming weaker with age.

Pregnant women: Flu is more likely to cause severe illness in pregnant women than in women who are not pregnant. Changes in the immune system, heart and lungs during pregnancy make women (as well as women up to two weeks post partum) more prone to severe illness, hospitalizations and even death from the flu. Pregnant women with flu also have a greater chance for serious problems for their unborn baby, including premature labor and delivery. Flu shots can protect both pregnant women and their unborn babies.

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American Indians and Alaskan Natives: Flu and pneumonia are two leading causes of death among Native elders. The flu can also worsen certain health conditions, such as diabetes, asthma and heart and lung disease. Because American Indians and Alaskan Natives have high rates of these chronic health conditions, they are at risk of developing severe complications from the flu.

People with the following chronic illnesses: Asthma, neurological and neurodevelopmental conditions, chronic lung disease, heart disease, blood disorders, endocrine disorders, kidney disorders, liver disorders, metabolic disorders, weakened immune system, and obesity. Catching the flu has the ability to worsen these already existing conditions.

Protect yourself and others from the flu by getting vaccinated. Flu vaccines are available at your primary care physician’s office, as well as area pharmacies and supermarkets.