Each winter, millions of people suffer from the fever, aches, and pains caused by the flu, a highly contagious infection. A relatively mild disease in healthy young and middle-aged people, flu can be life threatening to older adults. In an average year, flu leads to more than 200,000 hospitalizations and about 36,000 deaths nationwide.
One of the best ways to prevent flu is to get a flu shot each fall. Getting the shot every year is important because the flu virus is slightly different each year, and the flu shot is updated. The best time to get the shot is during October and November – before flu season begins.
Even though it’s effective and covered by Medicare, most older Hispanics don’t get a yearly flu shot. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only about 48 percent of Hispanics get the vaccine compared to 69 percent of non-Hispanic whites. Many worry about safety. You can’t get the flu from a flu shot! In most people, the flu shot doesn’t cause any side effects. A few have some soreness or redness on the arm where the shot is given.
To help you learn more about the flu and how to prevent flu for yourself and your loved ones, the National Institute on Aging (NIA) is offering a free fact sheet in Spanish. Call 1-800-222-2225 weekdays between 8:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Eastern time to order Que Hacer Acerca de la Gripe. A Spanish-speaking information specialist is available to respond to calls. This and other Spanish publications on healthy aging also are available on the NIA website at www.nia.nih.gov.
The NIA, part of the National Institutes of Health of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, leads the Federal effort supporting and conducting research on aging and the special needs of older people. The Institute is committed to making health information available to older Hispanic Americans and their families.