A new approach to deadly influenza outbreaks in nursing homes

October 18, 2012

(Medical Xpress)—In developed countries people over 65 years old are the most likely to die from an influenza outbreak and people in nursing homes, where the virus is difficult to control, are especially vulnerable.

A new preventive approach to this health problem, trialled by University of Sydney researchers and published in today, achieved lowered rates of infection in residents and staff, fewer hospitalisations and a significant reduction in the duration of the outbreak.

"This is a really important public health result. causes untold misery and is frequently fatal for older people. These results provide good evidence to support an active policy of treating and preventing influenza promptly, once an outbreak is declared," said Professor Robert Booy, Head of Clinical Research at the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance at Sydney Medical School and lead author of the study.

The trial took place in 16 nursing homes in the Sydney area over three winter flu seasons. Using the , commonly known as Tamiflu, the researchers tried two different strategies when an outbreak occurred.

They either treated only those residents in the home who had influenza symptoms with Tamiflu or they treated all residents with Tamiflu. In the second case, of treating everyone, was being used both as a treatment and a preventive health measure.

The results of treating all patients included:

  • a reduction in the length of the by 13 days
  • a reduction in the numbers of residents infected by a statistically significant amount (36.5 percent among those treated only for symptoms compared to 22.9 percent for those given the )
  • fewer staff infections
  • a lower rate of for residents.
Their results support the policy of widespread preventive use of the drug during outbreaks.

"This is a landmark trial as it has found an effective treatment for some of the most disadvantaged people in our community, who are usually excluded from major studies of this kind," said Professor Richard Lindley, the team geriatrician from Sydney Medical School and The George Institute.

"The speed and virulence with which influenza spreads in aged care homes is a recognised health issue so reducing both the numbers of people infected and the duration of the outbreak is a major breakthrough."

During the study period the researchers monitored for any evidence of an outbreak and 23 respiratory illness outbreaks were detected of which nine were shown to be influenza. This point to the importance of researching and treating other sources of respiratory illness outbreak.

"Getting any flu outbreak under control quickly is really important as it quickly spreads into the local community from bad outbreaks in and schools," Professor Dwyer said.

"This study also shows the importance of modern laboratory testing as we were able to show that the majority of respiratory outbreaks in this study were in fact not due to influenza," said Professor Dominic Dwyer, the team virologist from Sydney Medical School and Westmead Hospital.

Explore further: Flu vaccines for nursing home workers effective in reducing outbreaks: study

More information: dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0046509

Related Stories

Flu vaccines for nursing home workers effective in reducing outbreaks: study

September 12, 2011
Higher flu vaccination rates for health care personnel can dramatically reduce the threat of flu outbreak among nursing home residents, according to a study published in the October issue of Infection Control and Hospital ...

Recommended for you

Two Group A Streptococcus genes linked to 'flesh-eating' bacterial infections

September 22, 2017
Group A Streptococcus bacteria cause a variety of illnesses that range from mild nuisances like strep throat to life-threatening conditions including pneumonia, toxic shock syndrome and the flesh-eating disease formally known ...

Ecosystem approach makes urinary tract infection more treatable

September 22, 2017
The biological term 'ecosystem' is not usually associated with urinary tract infections, but this should change according to Wageningen scientists.

Residents: Frontline defenders against antibiotic resistance?

September 22, 2017
Antibiotic resistance continues to grow around the world, with sometimes disastrous results. Some strains of bacteria no longer respond to any currently available antibiotic, making death by infections that were once easily ...

Individualized diets for irritable bowel syndrome better than placebo

September 21, 2017
Patients with irritable bowel syndrome who follow individualized diets based on food sensitivity testing experience fewer symptoms, say Yale researchers. Their study is among the first to provide scientific evidence for this ...

Superbug's spread to Vietnam threatens malaria control

September 21, 2017
A highly drug resistant malaria 'superbug' from western Cambodia is now present in southern Vietnam, leading to alarming failure rates for dihydroartemisinin (DHA)-piperaquine—Vietnam's national first-line malaria treatment, ...

Investigators may unlock mystery of how staph cells dodge the body's immune system

September 21, 2017
For years, medical investigators have tried and failed to develop vaccines for a type of staph bacteria associated with the deadly superbug MRSA. But a new study by Cedars-Sinai investigators shows how staph cells evade the ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.