New flu strain may be coming

A new study of elderly patients suggests a second, fast spreading flu strain identified by the CDC could make many local seniors sick in the coming weeks.

Brand new research published in the Cell Host & Microbe scientific journal shows seniors are at high risk for catching the flu because their immune systems have trouble identifying new viral strains.

The CDC reports a new strain, H3N2 , now accounts for almost half of the nation’s flu cases and the current vaccine is only 44 percent effective against this second wave. CDC health officials say this second strain has a tendency to put people in the hospital.

Because of the increased risk, caregivers with Visiting Angels, the nation’s leading provider of in-home senior care with a local office, are encouraging families to make sure their senior loved one is not only vaccinated, but follow a caregiver checklist when it comes to protecting them from flu through the end of season, which can be as late as May.

Here are ways we can protect seniors from the flu:

Watch out for symptoms. A study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found 26 percent of hospitalized seniors with the flu did not exhibit the usual symptoms like fever, body aches or a cough. Symptoms in the elderly include: weakness, dizziness, loss of appetite, and delirium

Monitor the senior’s diet. You want to make sure your loved one is making healthy choices like these to build up strength and immunity during flu season.

Whole grains contain brown rice, oats and buckwheat which studies say help build healthy bacteria in your stomach, plus whole grains are loaded with zinc, an immune booster.

Garlic is a popular addition to many dishes that contains allicine, a compound known to boost immunity.

A study published in the American Journal of Therapeutics found most recipes for chicken soup include a compound called carnosine, which can mobilize the immune system to fight the early stages of flu.

The CDC reports viruses can live on surfaces for 24 hours and people with the flu can spread it to others up to six feet away.  Throughout flu season, use paper towels while cleaning. Germs like to grow in wet, moist areas like sponges and towels. Use paper towels with a disinfectant spray to frequently wipe down countertops, doorknobs, light switches, railings and other surfaces a senior might touch throughout the day. You can also use a Lysol sanitizing wipe as a backup.

Frequently wash hands. Flu germs easily spread when someone touches their nose, mouth or eyes. Health officials recommend you wash hands with soap and water.

Help seniors relax during flu season, make sure they get plenty of rest. Experts advise seven to nine hours of sleep a night to help build up immunity.

Visiting Angels caregivers help seniors get ready for the day, plan and prepare meals, run errands, help them keep their homes tidy and provide much needed companionship.

They are experts in their field and can quickly identify when a senior needs to get in front of a health care provider.

They would be happy to connect you with a local care giving expert and possibly a senior to talk about staying safe for the reminder of the flu season and how families are taking steps to protect keep their loved ones out of the hospital.

The expert can come to you or they could see about setting up interviews in the home of a local senior.