Aged-care facilities not meeting flu vax recommendations

Friday, 12 April, 2019

Aged-care facilities not meeting flu vax recommendations

A new Australian study has found that many aged-care facilities are not meeting minimum requirements when it comes to protecting elderly patients from influenza (flu).

The study, published in Public Health & Research Practice, found that numerous aged-care facilities were not providing all residents with an antiviral within 24 hours of a flu outbreak in the facility. In fact, it took an average time of 8.5 days to ensure all residents had taken prophylactic antivirals — well over the 24-hour recommendation.

Influenza attack rates in aged-care facilities are very high — it’s been estimated that during the annual flu season, over half of all of aged-care facilities suffer an outbreak.

Annual flu vaccination is recommended for residents, but vaccination is about 20% less effective in older people, creating a vulnerable population with increased risk of death even when vaccination rates are high. For this reason, Australian guidelines recommend the use of antivirals for all aged-care residents within 24 hours of a flu outbreak as a preventative measure.

The researchers looked at preventative antivirals use in New South Wales aged-care facilities during the flu season of 2015 and found that while 86 of the aged-care facilities reported a flu outbreak, only 52 used preventative antivirals.

To reduce the risk to elderly patients of contracting flu, aged-care facilities need to be more vigilant about using preventative antivirals. The study authors say there need to be strategies to improve the use of antivirals, including wider coverage, earlier initiation, earlier outbreak recognition and increased staff vaccination.

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