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The flu: Who is high risk and what can be done?

Posted November 30, 2015 11:30 a.m. EST
Updated November 28, 2016 6:10 p.m. EST

If anyone in your home has the flu, keep contact to a minimum and consistently wash your hands with soap and water or rinse with alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

This story was written for our sponsor, the N.C. Division of Public Health.

The flu is a severe illness that can last two to three weeks in most healthy children and adults, but the virus can become deadly if it infects certain high-risk people. Considering how highly contagious the flu can be, it’s important for high-risk individuals to be aware of the ways to prevent and treat the flu.

Who is Considered High-Risk?

Children 6 months and younger and the elderly -- 65 and older -- are at highest risk for serious and potentially deadly flu illness, and the CDC estimates that seasonal flu-related deaths in the United States ranged from 3,000 to a high of nearly 49,000.

The elderly are more likely to need hospitalization if they become ill with the virus, because their circulatory system is often weaker and they may struggle with respiratory health. A seemingly healthy grandparent can quickly end up in a hospital bed because of the flu.

Similarly, babies and infants are at high-risk of serious illness related to the flu virus because their immune, circulatory and respiratory systems are still developing and are extremely vulnerable.

What Can Be Done?

The best way to fight the flu and protect those considered high-risk for serious flu-related illness is to stop the virus before it starts. Have elderly family members vaccinated as soon as the vaccine becomes available. There is a higher-dose vaccine specifically made for people 65 and older.

Since children 6 months and younger cannot be vaccinated, it is paramount that parents, caretakers and other household family members be vaccinated in order to protect the child.

Other preventative measures include:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are ill
  • Wash hands with soap and water, or use alcohol based hand-sanitizer
  • If sick with flu-like symptoms, stay home for 24 hours after the fever has passed to seek any other treatment
  • Routinely clean often-touched surfaces in the home or office, such as doorknobs, phones, handles and keyboards.
  • Avoid all human contact
  • Maintain healthy lifestyle habits as best as possible, including getting enough sleep and eating well, to help keep your immune system strong

Prevention measures and precautions like these will help protect high-risk individuals during flu season.

This story was written for our sponsor, the N.C. Division of Public Health.