Nov 15, 2006
Influenza outbreaks in nursing homes are common. The effects can be devastating, even in facilities where most residents have been vaccinated. Older adults are especially susceptible to influenza, particularly those with functional impairments and multiple health conditions.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends immunizing nursing home residents and staffs as a way to prevent influenza outbreaks in nursing homes. However, to date, few studies have examined the effect of vaccinating both groups.
A study led by RAND researcher Lisa Shugarman examined how immunization rates among both nursing home residents and staff affect influenza outbreaks in nursing homes. The study collected information from 301 nursing homes across the United States. One-third of these nursing homes had experienced an outbreak of influenza-like illness during the 2004–2005 flu season. An outbreak was defined as three or more cases occurring within 72 hours in close proximity to each other inside the nursing home.
The study found the following:
The study concluded that immunizing nursing home staffs as well as residents is a key part of any strategy to reduce influenza outbreaks in nursing homes. In addition, publicly disseminating information about nursing home staff immunization rates might be wise policy.