Dr. Bryna Warshawsky, medical director of communicable disease, emergency preparedness and response with Public Health Ontario says while residents 65 years and older are not necessarily more likely to get the flu, they are more likely to suffer from complications due to the affliction.
“They are more likely to have other medical conditions such as heart disease or lung disease,” Warshawsky explains, adding due to the natural progression of aging, seniors’ immune systems are not as strong either.
The main complications of influenza are typically pneumonia or the worsening of other conditions.
Warshawsky says it is important for seniors to understand influenza is much more serious than the common cold.
“It can lead to complications, you can end up in the hospitals and end up with other infections.”
Seniors are one of the demographics most likely to get a flu shot.
“We are lucky enough to have a universal vaccine program,” Warshawsky says.
While there have been a number of questions raised about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines by some groups, called anti-vaxxers in the media, to Warshawsky, it remains the best defense against influenza.
“It isn’t a perfect vaccine, but it still works around 50 per cent. That is still pretty good odds,” she says.
It is also recommended that anyone who lives or works around seniors, such as family members, caregivers, and health care providers, receive the flu shot to help contain the spread of the disease.
Residents can receive the flu shot through a number avenues, including visiting their doctor, local pharmacy or a community flu clinic.
Information on local options can be found by visiting www.ontario.ca/flu.