For Providers

Guidance for Older Adults (65 and up)

People 65 years and older are at greater risk of serious complications from the flu compared with young, healthy adults because human immune defenses become weaker with age. While flu seasons can vary in severity, during most seasons, people 65 years and older bear the greatest burden.

Flu symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people may also have vomiting and diarrhea. People may be infected with the flu and have respiratory symptoms without a fever.

Prevention

Vaccination: Flu vaccination is especially important for people 65 years and older because they are at high risk of developing serious complications from flu. Flu vaccines are updated each season as needed to keep up with changing viruses. Also, immunity wanes over a year, so annual vaccination is needed to ensure the best possible protection against influenza.

People 65 years and older should get a flu shot and not a nasal spray vaccine. They can get any flu vaccine approved for use in that age group with no preference for any one vaccine over another. There are regular flu shots that are approved for use in people 65 and older and there also are two vaccines designed specifically for people 65 and older: the High Dose Flu Vaccine and the Adjuvanted Flu Vaccine.

Other Preventive Actions: In addition to getting the flu shot, people 65 years and older should take the same everyday preventive actions CDC recommends of everyone, including covering coughs, washing hands often, avoiding people who are sick, and encouraging those around them to get vaccinated.

Treatment

Treatment should begin as soon as possible because antiviral drugs work best when started early (within 48 hours after symptoms start).

Antiviral drugs can make flu illness milder and decrease duration of symptoms by one to two days. They may also prevent serious health problems that can result from flu illness.

For more information on current treatment guidelines see the provider memo and the CDC Flu Treatment page.

Interim Guidance for Influenza Outbreak Management in Long-Term Care and Post-Acute Care Facilities

Influenza can be introduced into a long-term care facility by newly-admitted residents, health care workers and by visitors, and then spread among residents and staff. Residents of long-term care facilities can experience severe and fatal illness during influenza outbreaks.

Preventing transmission of influenza viruses and other infectious agents within health care settings, including in long-term care facilities, requires a multi-faceted approach that includes the following:

  1. Influenza vaccination
  2. Influenza testing
  3. Infection prevention and control measures
  4. Antiviral treatment
  5. Antiviral chemoprophylaxis

Outbreaks or suspected outbreaks in long-term care facilities should be reported to your local health department.

For more information on prevention of influenza outbreaks in long-term care and post-acute care facilities please see the CDC Guidance.

Last Modified: June 28, 2019