Unvaccinated flu patients need more intensive care

Published on February 11, 2014 at 9:17 AM · No Comments

A snapshot of patients who required care at Duke University Hospital during this year's flu season shows that those who had not been vaccinated had severe cases and needed the most intensive treatment.

In an analysis of the first 55 patients treated for flu at the academic medical center from November 2013 through Jan. 8, 2014, Duke Medicine researchers found that only two of the 22 patients who required intensive care had been vaccinated prior to getting sick.

The findings were published online in Monday, Feb. 10, 2014, in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

"Our observations are important because they reinforce a growing body of evidence that the influenza vaccine provides protection from severe illness requiring hospitalizations," said lead author Cameron Wolfe, M.D., assistant professor of medicine at Duke. "The public health implications are important, because not only could a potentially deadly infection be avoided with a $30 shot, but costly hospitalizations could also be reduced."

Wolfe said this year's flu season was marked by hospitalizations of previously healthy young people, with a median age of 28.5 years. Among those who were hospitalized at Duke, 48 of the 55 were infected with the H1N1 virus that caused the 2009 pandemic. That outbreak also hit young adults particularly hard.

"We observed a high percentage of hospitalized patients for influenza requiring ICU level care, which appears higher than observed in our hospital during the 2009 pandemic flu season," said co-author John W. Hollingsworth, M.D., associate professor of medicine at Duke. "It remains unclear whether the high rate of ICU admissions represents a diagnosis bias or whether the severity of illness being caused by the current H1N1 virus is higher."

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