Tue, Feb 27, 2018 - Page 3 News List

Flu infecting more young people this season: doctor

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

The average age of people hospitalized for flu and pneumonia has dropped to 44 years old this flu season, Shin-Kong Wu Ho-Su Memorial Hospital deputy superintendent Kao Shang-jyh (高尚志) said yesterday, urging young people to be alert to serious flu complications and higher-risk groups to consider getting a pneumococcal vaccine for better protection.

Citing data provided by the Centers for Disease Control, Kao said that about 36,000 cases of flu-like illness were reported during the Lunar New Year holiday, and some of those who had serious complications were young or middle-aged people.

Data compiled by the hospital showed that flu and pneumonia was the second-most common cause of hospitalization for patients over the past two years, and that the average age of these patients dropped from 52 to 44 years old, he said.

Many of the flu-related deaths reported this flu season were caused by pneumonia, Kao said.

“While pneumonia is a common complication of flu infection, pneumonia caused by the Streptococcus pneumoniae bacterium is also common, and this type of infection can increase the risk of death,” he added.

Serious flu infection is not only a threat to elderly people, but also to younger people who often visit public spaces, lack sleep, are heavy drinkers, or have weaker immune systems due to chronic diseases.

Older people with diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease or chronic diseases, or who are taking steroid medication, also have weaker immune systems, leading to increased risks of flu infection or pneumonia, Kao said.

Inflammatory response can increase with age and the antibodies’ response to vaccination can diminish with age, he said.

As older people who have been vaccinated against the flu are still at risk of contracting the flu or developing serious complications, they should get a pneumococcal vaccine for better protection, he added.

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