“There is still no need to panic,” reassures Professor Hans Jürgen Heppner, President of the German Society for Geriatrics (DGG) and Chief Physician of the Geriatrics Clinic at HELIOS Clinic Schwelm and holder of the Chair for Geriatrics at the University of Witten / Herdecke. Grandma and Grandpa should of course continue to be well looked after. But he urges prudence and increased hygiene measures. Even those who are thinking of going to church at Easter or planning a family celebration are not all good at the moment.
The immune system (immune senescence) also ages with humans. The defense against infections works slower and weaker than that in younger patients. Basically, seniors are more susceptible to infections, especially acute respiratory infections, as is often the case with regular influenza flu and now also with the corona virus (SARS-CoV-2). “In addition, the elderly often have many pre-existing and chronic comorbidities,” explains DGG President Heppner. “If older age and chronic illnesses come together or even several chronic illnesses (multi-morbidity), the risk of infection and death increases.” Geriatricians experience this every year during the flu season: In recent years, about 90 percent of deaths due to influenza have affected them Age group 60+. Accordingly, geriatricians draw the same conclusion with regard to the largely unknown corona virus: The group of seniors and geriatric patients has the highest risk of becoming seriously ill or of dying from the virus. The chief virologist of the Charité, Prof. Dr. Christian Drosten even predicts a possible death rate of up to 25 percent if we don’t act.
Complete isolation is not the solution – washing your hands and behaving properly is better
“Beyond retirement age, we really have to protect the population,” said Heppner, “but please do everything beyond panic! Nobody is locked away for months, and complete social isolation is by no means the solution. ”On the contrary: social isolation can also make you sick. Older people need special support right now, for example taking off shopping, making longer calls to children and grandchildren. The geriatrician warns relatives to rethink any family arrangements. “The next few months, the grandparents will not replace kindergarten or all-day school, as painful as that is. Rather, if possible, children and grandchildren should go shopping for the grandparents so that they don’t have to go to the supermarket and are exposed to the risk of infection. ”
The 10 most important tips for everyday life:
* Frequently washing hands with soap and water for approx. 20 seconds (disinfectant additives are usually not necessary)
* Dry your hands thoroughly after washing (change towels every day)
* Avoid shaking hands or close physical contact such as hugs or kisses as a greeting
* Stay away from people who sneeze or cough
* Use disposable handkerchiefs
* Wash your hands again after coughing, sneezing and blowing your nose
* Avoid large crowds and close physical contact (rather go to church at Easter in front of the television and reduce family celebrations to individual visits, don’t forget the distance here too)
* Cancel group appointments (prefer to meet with few people)
* Take a walk in the fresh air to train your immune system
* Carry out pneumococcal vaccination if not already done
Pneumococcal vaccination is highly recommended
The DGG also appeals to all seniors to have a pneumococcal vaccination or to get a vaccination: “Talk to your family doctor and complete your vaccination protection against seasonal flu and pneumococci, as recommended by the Standing Committee on Vaccination” (STIKO) Dr. Anja Kwetkat Director of the Geriatrics Clinic at the Jena University Hospital and spokeswoman for the AG-Impfen within the DGG. “Pneumococcal vaccination is extremely important, since vaccinated patients develop pneumonia with significantly milder symptoms than non-vaccinated patients.” Because: Similar to influenza, the corona virus is not the virus itself, but rather the resulting pneumonia in the end, fatal. Pneumococcal vaccination is good prophylaxis in every respect.
Source / tips: German Geriatric Society
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