A new study has found that patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) face heightened risks of death, critical illness, and hospitalization if they develop the flu.
This demonstrates the beneficial effects of influenza vaccination.
The report also reveals gaps in care that need to be addressed.
This includes less-than-universal influenza vaccination in patients with COPD and failure to provide an antiviral medication in a timely manner once the patient is diagnosed with the flu.
The study found that influenza infection is a common reason for hospitalization among patients with COPD, and the consequences of influenza infection are severe:
one out of every 10 patients with influenza died, and one out of every five patients with influenza required intensive care.
In this large national, prospective study, data were collected from 46 hospitals.
The data were collected over the course of four winter seasons during 2011-2015.
This study included hospitalized adults with a documented diagnosis of COPD, selecting those with known influenza vaccination history.
Analysis of nasopharyngeal swabs was used to diagnose if patients had the flu. Of the 4,755 patients included in the study, 38.5 percent (1,833) were confirmed as having influenza.
The team found that influenza infection is a common reason for hospitalization among patients with COPD.
Once hospitalized, influenza-positive patients more frequently required mechanical ventilation, experienced higher mortality, and greater need for critical care compared with patients who tested negative for influenza.
For patients using home oxygen, the outcomes were more severe with greater risk for ICU admission and higher mortality.
Despite the clear benefits of vaccination, only 66.5 percent of patients with COPD studied were vaccinated.
The vaccination rate was not any better among patients requiring home oxygen therapy.
The investigators also identified another gap in care for these vulnerable patients with COPD.
Among those infected with influenza, only 69 percent received an antiviral medication while hospitalized and, for many, the prescription of the antiviral was delayed.
The results suggest that greater awareness is needed among patients with COPD and their health care providers regarding the severe consequences of influenza infection and the benefits of vaccination.
Finding methods to improve vaccination rates among patients with COPD is likely to have a significant impact.
The study is published in the journal Chest.
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