Punxsutawney Phil may have predicted an early spring but as of January 26, 2013, “forty-two states reported widespread geographic influenza activity” and “of all hospitalizations, more than 50% were among adults 65 years and older,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Although most people recover from the flu without treatment in approximately one week, if you are 65 or older, especially if you have underlying health problems, such as lung or heart disease, you might be at higher risk of developing complications from the influenza virus that require hospitalization.

Even if you have had a flu vaccine, the CDC “suggests this year’s vaccine is 60 percent effective, perhaps much less so for seniors” and even people who have had a flu shot could be at risk and according to AARP “those 65 or older account for some nine out of 10 flu-related deaths in the United States.”

While there are numerous illnesses that have similar symptoms as the flu, including bacterial pneumonia or another kind of virus, if you or your family member fits the profile of someone at risk of complications from the flu, consult a doctor as soon as you feel the symptoms begin, you feel a shortness of breath or as soon as you know you have been exposed to someone with the flu.

Despite some recent controversy, the CDC report, Influenza Antiviral Medications: Summary for Clinicians, “influenza antiviral prescription drugs can be used to treat influenza or to prevent influenza. Two FDA-approved influenza antiviral medications are recommended for use in the United States during the 2012-2013 influenza season: oseltamivir (Tamiflu®) and zanamivir (Relenza®).”

If the time has come that you or a family member is no longer able to maintain an independent lifestyle, contact ElderLink to discuss elder care services and options available throughout California.