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

Phase 3 trial confirms superiority of tocilizumab to steroids for giant cell arteritis

July 26, 2017
A phase 3 clinical trial has confirmed that regular treatment with tocilizumab, an inhibitor of interleukin-6, successfully reduced both symptoms of and the need for high-dose steroid treatment for giant cell arteritis, the ...

A large-scale 'germ trap' solution for hospitals

July 26, 2017
When an infectious airborne illness strikes, some hospitals use negative pressure rooms to isolate and treat patients. These rooms use ventilation controls to keep germ-filled air contained rather than letting it circulate ...

Researchers report new system to study chronic hepatitis B

July 25, 2017
Scientists from Princeton University's Department of Molecular Biology have successfully tested a cell-culture system that will allow researchers to perform laboratory-based studies of long-term hepatitis B virus (HBV) infections. ...

Male hepatitis B patients suffer worse liver ailments, regardless of lifestyle

July 25, 2017
Why men with hepatitis B remain more than twice as likely to develop severe liver disease than women remains a mystery, even after a study led by a recent Drexel University graduate took lifestyle choices and environments ...

Mind-body therapies immediately reduce unmanageable pain in hospital patients

July 25, 2017
Mindfulness training and hypnotic suggestion significantly reduced acute pain experienced by hospital patients, according to a new study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

Research examines lung cell turnover as risk factor and target for treatment of influenza pneumonia

July 24, 2017
Influenza is a recurring global health threat that, according to the World Health Organization, is responsible for as many as 500,000 deaths every year, most due to influenza pneumonia, or viral pneumonia. Infection with ...

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.