woman wrapped in blanket blowing her nose

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This year’s flu season is gaining traction with a strain that is especially dangerous for older adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Increased influenza A (H3N2) activity has been seen in young adults on college and university campuses in several states, the CDC said in an advisory last week. The agency noted that in the past, seasons in which this strain was predominant have been associated with more hospitalizations and deaths in people aged 65 and older than in other age groups.

Influenza activity was low throughout the United States last season due to COVID-19 mitigation measures in place at the time, which could mean lower levels of community protection this year, according to the CDC. The agency anticipates an increase in the flu this winter because both influenza A (H3N2) and B-Victoria viruses already are circulating.

At the same time, the United States and the rest of the world continue to battle SARS-CoV-2 variants, including omicron, which was categorized as a variant of concern this week by the U.S. government and the World Health Organization. Illness associated with influenza and coronavirus might stress healthcare systems this season, according to the U.S. agency.

The CDC recommends that anyone six months and older be immunized against the flu to reduce the chances of hospitalization and death. People aged 65 or more years are at higher risk of developing serious flu complications, including death, compared with young, healthy adults due in part to changes in immune defenses with increasing age.

People can receive the COVID-19 vaccine and flu vaccine at the same visit, the agency reiterated.

The CDC also provided testing and management considerations for nursing home residents with acute respiratory illness symptoms, indicating that the same practices can be adapted for use in assisted living communities. The recommendations include cohorting, testing symptomatic residents for both influenza and coronavirus, providing antiviral treatment as appropriate, and encouraging vaccination.

Influenza antivirals can be used in congregate settings to reduce the risk of illness among residents exposed to the virus, according to the CDC.

The agency has posted online recommendations for older adults and a toolkit for long-term care settings interested in increasing flu vaccination among workers.