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Researchers believe seniors have a partial immunity to swine flu because of exposure to similar viruses in their lifetimes. It is a rare bit of good news before the start of the regular flu season, which generally kills 36,000 people a year, most of them elderly.
Around the country, places where older people live and congregate are stepping up efforts to educate seniors about flu and to get them immunized against seasonal flu.
At Barton Healthcare, which runs nine nursing homes, assisted living developments and long-term care centers in Chicago and Peoria, Ill., staffers are stockpiling latex gloves and hand sanitizers, posting signs at entrances telling sick visitors to stay away.
"In these settings, it spreads like wildfire," said Marian Simon, the chief nursing officer for the network. She said residents are being urged to get both the seasonal flu vaccine and the pneumonia vaccine, but are telling them they're unsure about the swine flu shots.
"I don't even want to tell them. I don't want panic."
On the whole, though, the potential for panic seems minimal, with many seniors expressing views similar to Judy Pepiton, a 66-year-old retired office manager from Phoenix: "I know people are dying from this, but I guess I don't really think that I'm high risk."
And, recognizing their own mortality, many older Americans, are taking swine flu warnings in stride.
"There's a lot of other illnesses and accidents I could be concerned about," said 62-year-old Michael Kozubek, a retired lawyer from Chicago, who got his seasonal flu shot but isn't worried about swine flu. "I could die of a million things."
On the Net:
CDC swine flu vaccine recommendations: http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/vaccination/acip.htm
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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