Thousands of people die each year from the flu and doctors are again stressing the importance of everyone getting vaccinated this year. Creighton University Pharmacy Professor Linda Ohri says there are two age groups of children most likely to spread a flu strain far and wide. The first are children in grade school, particularly kindergartners and younger who are still developing their resistance to the flu virus. That makes them more susceptible to getting the illness.
Ohri says, “Even though they are healthy, it might not be super severe. So that’s a piece, but then they’re around all of these other kids in the classroom and the teachers and their parents and their grandparents who may have an illness, their little brothers and sisters who are infants, and that’s why we call them a vector or spreader.”
However, teenagers spread the virus much farther than a young child. Ohri says, “Teenagers have a bit more resistance, but teenagers are everywhere. You know, they are really circulating in the population. They have jobs. They work in the grocery store or the pharmacy. So they’re around a lot of the population. They work in fast food. So, they tend to have a lot more areas that they are exposing, being exposed to and exposing others to illness.” That is why it is so important that children and teenagers get vaccinated to help prevent the spread of the virus other areas of the population. The hospitalization for children less than two to five years of age are as high or higher, depending on their age, that it is for people over 65.
Due to the risk factor, medical experts recommend that everyone over the age of six months get the influenza vaccine. The vaccine takes two weeks to be fully effective and no one knows when it will peak or become widespread. The virus typically starts to appear in October. Ohri stresses that all age groups should get vaccinated, but people who are at increased risk are most crucial and that includes pregnant women, children under five, adults 65 and over, nursing home residents, anyone with chronic medical conditions and anyone who is a caregiver.