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Older Adults Benefit From Early Flu Treatment, Study Shows

Researchers saw that when seniors were given antiviral flu medication early, it reduced their need for extended care. Seniors have a high risk of serious influenza complications.

“Flu can be extremely serious in older people, leading to hospitalization and in some cases long-term disability,” Dan Jernigan of the CDC said in a news release.

“This study shows that people 65 and older should seek medical care early when they develop flu symptoms.”

Adults 65 years and older are the most affected by severe flu disease, comprising 80-90% of deaths from flu in recent years and 50-70% of hospitalizations from the disease, according to the CDC. Thus, preventing serious complications through early treatment is of utmost importance. Vulnerable populations such as children, seniors and pregnant women should also get the flu vaccine every year.

Researchers found that seniors who sought medical care or who were hospitalized within two days of the onset of illness and who were treated with antiviral medicines within the first four days of illness had considerably shorter hospital stays than those who received treatment after 4 days of illness onset.

Further, patients who sought care early were 25-60% less likely to need extended care after leaving the hospital.

Researchers pointed out that lengthy bed restriction from hospital stays could add to seniors’ disability, in cases where flu is not treated promptly. They also cautioned that older age, presence of neurologic disorders, intensive care unit (ICU) admission, and pneumonia at admission may signal a need for extended care.

The study used data from 250 hospitals in 13 states over three flu seasons (2010-2013), said the CDC.

Written by Varsha Tickoo, Community Health Programs Specialist at El Camino Hospital’s Health Library and Resource Center (HLRC). Come to the HLRC to access helpful health information and access a vast array of resources that promote healthful living!

This article first appeared in the November 2015 edition of the HealthPerks newsletter.

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