Jefferson County Dept of Health on protecting the elderly during flu season

Published: Nov. 20, 2022 at 10:19 PM CST
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Protecting the elderly during this rampant flu season remains a priority for healthcare officials.

ADPH’s latest reporting shows all areas of our state with significant influenza activity. While statewide influenza-like illness is at around 8.5%, it’s actually a decrease from the past few weeks.

Still though, the flu is still spreading and we need to protect the most vulnerable, including those 65 years and older.

Jefferson County Medical Director of Disease Control Dr. Wesley Willeford says the main reason the elderly are considered some of the most vulnerable is because of the aging of the immune system. He explains that it can be harder for their bodies to get full control of the virus, which can lead to more severe consequences like lung dysfunction and even pneumonia later on.

Most remember that flu activity was extremely low over the past two years. Dr. Willeford says, as a society, we learned something that could be extremely helpful now for the most vulnerable.

“Now one thing that we learned during the COVID-19 pandemic... while the COVID-19 is effected by the mask, it’s not to the same degree that flu is,” said Dr. Willeford. “It was very difficult for flu to transmit whenever there were a lot of masks in use. So I think that does provide quite a bit of protection and certainly if you’re more vulnerable, I think that is a viable strategy to keep yourself protected as we get through the next few months.”

On top of masking, Dr. Willeford really stressed the importance of the high-dose flu vaccine for anyone 65 and older. He says while the vaccine doesn’t guarantee you won’t get the virus, it does better protect you from the worst side effects like hospitalization and death.

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