Early antiviral treatment for seniors with severe cases of the flu may shorten their hospital stay and reduce the need for extended care after discharge, a new government study finds.
“Flu can be extremely serious in older people, leading to hospitalization and, in some cases, long-term disability. This important study shows that people 65 and older should seek medical care early when they develop flu symptoms,” Dr. Dan Jernigan, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s influenza division, said in an agency news release on the study.
People aged 65 and older are at high risk for serious flu complications and should be treated with antiviral drugs as early as possible, according to the CDC.
In the study, CDC researchers analyzed data gathered from more than 250 hospitals in 13 states during three consecutive flu seasons (2010-2013), to assess the impact of early flu treatment on people aged 65 and older. The study did not include those who lived in nursing homes.
Among seniors who sought medical care or were hospitalized within two days of getting the flu, those treated with antiviral drugs within the first four days of illness spent fewer days in the hospital than those who started treatment later, the findings showed.
Patients who received early antiviral treatment were also 25 percent to 60 percent less likely to require extended care after leaving the hospital, according to the study published Sept. 2 in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.
In recent years, seniors have accounted for 80 percent to 90 percent of seasonal flu-related deaths, and 50 percent to 70 percent of flu-related hospitalizations in the United States, the CDC said.
The agency recommends antiviral treatment as soon as possible for all hospitalized patients with suspected or confirmed flu, and for all patients with a high risk of serious flu complications, including those aged 65 and older.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about seniors and the flu.