Cooler weather, falling leaves, children in their back-to-school finery … these are all things we associate with autumn. Healthcare personnel also think of fall as the time for patients to be vaccinated for the annual seasonal flu.
Have you ever wondered why flu season in the U.S. peaks during the fall and winter months? Scientists have asked the same question. Is it because children return to school and “share” the virus? Is it because people are cooped up in closer proximity to one another during the colder winter months? Or perhaps the lower levels of light affect our immune systems? Researchers from Virginia Tech recently studied the relationship between flu outbreaks and humidity. They found that the virus thrives very well in low humidity—making our dry, heated homes the perfect condition for the flu to spread. (On the other hand, the virus also survives in very high humidity, which may be why flu season peaks during the rainy season in tropical climates.)
No matter what the reason for the timing of flu season, it’s wise to be vaccinated at the recommended time. Seniors are at highest risk of complications from the flu, and 90 percent of flu-related deaths occur in people older than 65. Talk to your healthcare provider about the flu vaccine you should receive. You can also visit www.flu.gov to learn more about the risks of the flu in older adults, the importance of annual vaccination, and available vaccine options.
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