Older Adults at Greatest Risk for Serious Complications from Influenza and COVID-19

Albany, NY—The New York State Office for the Aging (NYSOFA) is reminding older adults and caregivers about the importance of getting their flu vaccination as soon as possible. Flu season is already underway—and can last as late as May. The flu shot is an essential preventive care service that should not be delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
“With the holiday season upon us, staying healthy is more critical than ever, particularly for older adults, who are at greater risk for the flu and COVID-19,” said NYSOFA Acting Director Greg Olsen. “Our immune systems are more easily compromised as we age, and older adults, especially those with chronic health conditions, have an increased risk of becoming seriously ill. In addition to following all safety and social distancing guidelines to reduce the spread of COVID, getting a flu shot is vital to protect the health and wellbeing of older adults and caregivers.”
 
Flu symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, and fatigue. Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea. People infected with the flu may also have respiratory symptoms without a fever. The flu can cause mild to severe illness. Older adults, people with certain chronic medical conditions, young children, and pregnant women are among those who are at highest risk of serious flu complications, possibly requiring hospitalization and sometimes resulting in death.
 
Getting a flu shot is particularly important for those at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19, which can mimic flu symptoms. While the flu vaccine does not specifically protect against COVID-19, it is highly recommended to maintain overall health and protect against other respiratory illnesses.
 
To find a location near you to get a flu shot, please visit vaccinefinder.org.
 
As we enter the holiday season, understanding the risks and impact of the COVID-19 virus is critical for all New Yorkers to protect themselves and their loved ones.
 
New Yorkers can take the CV19 CheckUp, a free, anonymous, personalized online tool that evaluates an individual’s risks associated with COVID-19 based on their life situation and behaviors and provides recommendations and resources to reduce those risks. Developed by BellAge, Inc, the CV19CheckUp tool helps people be safer, healthier, and ensure their individual needs are met during the pandemic.
 
With COVID cases continuing to increase across the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the following: Celebrate the holidays at home with the people you live with. Gatherings with family and friends who do not live with you can increase the chances of getting or spreading COVID-19 or the flu. Practice good health and safety habits, including wearing a mask in public, practicing social distancing by keeping at least six (6) feet of distance between yourself and others, even when outdoors; avoiding close contact such as shaking hands or hugging; washing hands often or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol when soap and water are not available; and avoiding unnecessary contact with surfaces that are often touched, such as doorknobs and handrails. Get your annual flu shot. Everyone six months of age and older, particularly those at greater risk, should get an annual flu vaccine. High-dose flu shots are also available for adults age 65 and older. Get pneumococcal vaccines. People 65 years and older should also be up to date with the pneumococcal vaccination to protect against other respiratory illnesses such as pneumonia, meningitis, and bloodstream infections. Seek medical advice quickly if you develop COVID or flu symptoms. People with COVID-19 have reported a wide range of symptoms from mild to severe illness, many which mimic flu symptoms.  
Additional Resources for Older Adults and Caregivers: New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH): NYS Flu Tracker CDC: People 65 Years and Older & Influenza NYSDOH: Coronavirus website CDC: COVID-19 and older adults Elder Preparedness Self-Assessment Tool (TEPSAT): TEPSAT is a performance-based online tool that measures preparedness and directs individuals to valuable tools and resources to help prepare for successful aging. Medicare.org: Those who have had Medicare Part B (medical insurance) for longer than 12 months are eligible for a yearly wellness visit at low or no cost to develop or update a personalized plan to help prevent or manage disease and disabilities based on their current health and risk factors.  
About the New York State Office for the Aging and Health Across All Policies/Age-Friendly New York
The New York State Office for the Aging (NYSOFA) continuously works to help the state’s 4.6 million older adults be as independent as possible for as long as possible through advocacy, development and delivery of person-centered, consumer-oriented, and cost-effective policies, programs, and services that support and empower older adults and their families, in partnership with the network of public and private organizations that serve them.
 
New York is nationally recognized for being the first age-friendly state in the nation. Using the state’s Prevention Agenda as the overarching framework, in 2017, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo launched a Health Across All Policies approach, where public and private partners work together to positively impact population health by marrying health care, preventive health, and community design, in concert with addressing social determinants of health, to improve the lives of all New Yorkers, young and old.
 
Stay connected—download the NYSOFA mobile app for iOS or Android; visit the NYSOFA Facebook page; follow @NYSAGING on Twitter and NYSAging on Instagram; or visit aging.ny.gov.