We all know that the very young and the elderly have a higher risk of flu-related complications than other demographics; but a recent study from McMaster’s School of Medicine and the World Health Organization suggests other previously unidentified demographics are more vulnerable, too.
The findings suggest that new moms and people who are obese have a significantly greater risk of having an adverse reaction to the flu, including death, than previously thought.
Flu Testing & Policy Evaluation Necessary
The major take-aways from the research indicate a need for governmental organizations and policy makers to reevaluate the processes and data that support vaccine recommendations for certain demographics. This policy evaluation will be of particular importance when/if we experience a vaccine shortage.
The study, conducted by researchers at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, and published in the Aug. 23 issue of British Medical Journal (BMJ 2013;347:f5061), examined data on 610,782 patients in 239 studies.
Flu Study Findings - Who’s Really at Risk?
The team looked at data on serious flu-related complications such as pneumonia, hospital admittance, the need for a ventilator, and death. The study produced some new and interesting findings:
- Mothers who were less than four weeks postpartum had a significantly increased risk of death.
- Obesity increasead the risk of death, and was also strongly linked to hospital and ICU admissions and the need for a ventilator.
- The presence of any chronic lung disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or obstructive sleep apnea also increased the risk of death.
- Pregnant women and certain ethnic minorities (such as American aboriginal people) were not found to have more influenza complications and would not need priority vaccination.
How Does the Flu Study Affect Healthcare?
These new findings have several implications for the medical world. Firstly, they suggest that previous vaccination guidelines and/or rations may need to be reevaluated so as to provide availability for these newly identified vulnerable groups.
Secondly, these findings suggest that influenza testing should be more widespread among these at-risk demographics so that symptoms and potential complications can be caught and dealt with early.
Is your lab prepared to handle the potential increase in flu tests for these newly identified demographics? Stock up on Puritan PurFlock Ultra® flocked swabs and UTM-RT transport systems to ensure you’re equipped to deal with any potential influx.