Infectious diseases expert panels: Adults aged 65+ years at heightened risk from respiratory infections

Elderly adults are at higher risk from respiratory infections than previously thought, experts at two National Foundation for Infectious Diseases-hosted roundtables concluded.

The roundtables focused on the impact of influenza and respiratory syncytial virus in adults, aged 65 years and older.

The experts reported that viruses, like influenza and RSV, hit older adults harder because of age-related decline in the immune system and an increased likelihood of having chronic conditions.

RSV is a well-known cause of severe respiratory illness in infants, but is also linked to an increased risk of hospitalization and death in older adults, which had been largely unrecognized until recently. Thus, drug and vaccine development has slowed for older adults with RSV.

Experts strongly recommend that adults over the age of 65 get vaccinated as recommended.

"Adults age 65 years and older may receive the high-dose or adjuvanted vaccine if they are available, but should not skip their annual flu vaccination in any case," said William Schaffner, MD, NFID's medical director, in a statement.

Additionally, vaccines and treatment options are currently in development for RSV-infected older adults.

The roundtable discussions have been summarized in recently published NFID reports.

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