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Some quick tips to ensure the flu doesn’t make your diabetes worse

Oct 30, 2014

Special AADE guest blog from Albert Terrillion, DrPH, Med, CPH

As we head into cold and flu season, it’s important to recognize that the flu, a respiratory infection, can be serious. For one person it might mean two weeks laid up on the couch. For another, it could be hospitalization, or even death, and there’s no way to know ahead of time how serious a bout with the flu might be. What is clear is that flu can be severe for people aged 65 and older and can make existing health conditions, like diabetes, worse.1 According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people who have diabetes are at higher risk for developing serious flu-related complications, like pneumonia.2  

The National Council on Aging (NCOA), the nation’s leading nonprofit service and advocacy organization representing older adults, is spearheading a national education campaign, Flu + You, aimed at educating those 65 and older about the seriousness of flu, the importance of prevention and the available vaccine options. As part of this program, we are working with the AADE to ensure we educate people with diabetes, who are particularly vulnerable.

Consider these tips:

Don’t let the flu complicate your diabetes.
• People with diabetes are more likely to develop complications from the flu that can result in hospitalization and even death.1
• Once sick, a person with diabetes may see an increase in blood glucose. In addition, being sick with the flu can prevent persons with diabetes from eating properly. People with diabetes are also at risk of flu-related complications like pneumonia.2

Know that the flu can be severe when you’re older.
• The flu is a contagious illness that can be severe and life-threatening, especially for adults 65 years of age and older. Nine out of 10 flu-related deaths and more than six out of 10 flu-related hospital stays occur in people 65 years of age and older.4

Get an annual flu shot.
• The immune system weakens with age, which makes it harder to fight disease. As a result, adults aged 65 and older are more likely to catch the flu and experience complications. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the single best way to help prevent the flu is to get an annual vaccination, which is recommended for everyone aged six months and older, with rare exception. 5,6  Everyone eligible who has or who lives around those with diabetes should get the flu vaccine.

Talk to your doctor about vaccine options.
• Older adults have flu vaccine options – including the traditional, standard-dose flu vaccine and a higher-dose vaccine. The higher-dose vaccine was developed specifically for people 65 and older to improve the body’s production of antibody against the flu. Antibodies help the immune system respond and protect against infection when exposed to the virus. Antibodies are the soldiers that help fight infection when exposed to the virus.8,9   
• All flu vaccines are covered as a Medicare Part B benefit, which means there is no copay for Medicare beneficiaries 65 years of age and older.

Please talk with your patients, particularly those 65 and older, about the dangers of the flu and the benefits of vaccination. Visit the Flu + You website at www.ncoa.org/Flu to learn more about the flu, download resources, share content, and watch a new public service announcement with award-winning actress Judith Light. 


 

1  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). People at High Risk of Developing Flu-Related Complications. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/high_risk.htm. Accessed May 19, 2014.
2  U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Diabetes & the Flu. http://www.flu.gov/at-risk/health-conditions/diabetes/. Accessed on March 30, 2014.
3  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Seasonal Influenza: Flu Basics. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/index.htm. Accessed May 15, 2014.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). What You Should Know and Do this Flu Season If You Are 65 Years and Older. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/65over.htm. Accessed on March 28, 2014.
5  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Preventing the Flu: Good Health Habits Can Help Stop Germs. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/habits.htm. Accessed May 19, 2014.
6  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Who Should Get Vaccinated Against Influenza http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/whoshouldvax.htm. Accessed on March 28, 2014.
7  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). If You Have Diabetes, A Flu Shot Could Save Your Life. http://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/projects/pdfs/eng_brochure.pdf. Accessed on March 27, 2014.
8  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Fluzone High-Dose Seasonal Influenza Vaccine. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/vaccine/qa_fluzone.htm. Accessed May 19, 2014. 
 9  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). How Vaccines Prevent Disease. http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vac-gen/howvpd.htm. Accessed March 30, 2014.

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