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Flu hits senior citizens hard


UNDATED (WSAU)   Wisconsin’s older adults were hospitalized with the flu at a much higher rate than the nation as a whole this winter. State epidemiologist Tom Haupt said 210 of every 100,000 adults 65-and-older landed in the hospital with the flu. That’s higher than the national rate of 154 seniors hospitalized per hundred-thousand. And in Milwaukee, the rate was even higher than Wisconsin’s, with a rate of 265 hospitalized.

The U-S Centers for Disease Control said this winter’s flu shot did a bad job of protecting older people against a severe H-3-N-2 strain. But that still doesn’t explain why Wisconsinites fell ill at higher rates than their fellow Americans. Milwaukee disease control director Paul Biedrzycki says a reduced access to medical care by seniors might be one reason – along with the underlying health conditions of minority residents who live in poverty. He says minorities have higher rates of chronic illnesses like diabetes – and they can reduce their immune systems’ ability to fight off the flu, even with vaccine.

National health officials have yet to analyze reasons for the higher rates of elderly hospitalizations.