Flu and the Vulnerable

8 01 2010

Be it swine or seasonal, influenza can knock people off their feet for days. Sometimes the infection leads to hospitalization and, rarely, death. It’s not a disease anyone should ignore.

It can be bad for those without health issues, but there are several groups of people who are at greater risk of complications from influenza, including those with physical and/or developmental challenges.

Physical challenges can interfere with the body’s ability to fight infection. For example, folks living with chronic diseases or conditions, such as HIV, asthma or diabetes, are more likely to be severely affected by influenza.

Developmental challenges interfere with a person’s ability to understand and make decisions, which can make it difficult to know when or how to take precautions and evaluate one’s own health status.

Difficulty communicating may make it hard to tell others about one’s symptoms. This increases the risk of developing more serious illness.

Some people who are physically or developmentally challenged live alone and may be less likely to be monitored closely for illness symptoms, which can also result in more serious illness.

Children aged 5 and younger have a higher risk for developing complications from influenza, and for a child living with spina bifida, cerebral palsy, seizure disorder, or weakened immune system from HIV/AIDS or cancer, the risk for developing complications from influenza is amplified.

In addition to precautions such as covering coughs and sneezes and washing hands frequently, the flu vaccine, if used by everyone, can keep at-risk people safe from influenza and its complications.

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