Study Highlights Flu Risks For Women With Chronic Illness

Improving influenza prevention efforts among high-risk young and middle-aged adults could reduce the number of hospitalizations and deaths associated with the virus each year.

In a study published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Vanderbilt University Medical Center researchers report that women under the age of 65 with certain chronic medical conditions experience substantial morbidity and mortality from acute cardiopulmonary events during influenza season each year. These chronic conditions include cardiac or pulmonary disease, diabetes, malignancy, chronic renal disease and HIV infection.

While the vast majority - between 60-90 percent - of people who die during influenza season are 65 years or older, nearly three quarters of pneumonia- and influenza-associated hospitalizations occur among people younger than 65.

The study tracked non-pregnant women under the age of 64 who were enrolled in Tennessee's Medicaid program from 1974-1993. It was discovered that for every 10,000 women aged 15-44 deemed to be at high-risk, 23 had cardiopulmonary hospitalizations related to influenza each year. Among 10,000 women aged 45-64 years, approximately 58 cardiopulmonary hospitalizations and four deaths were related to influenza each year. In comparison, hospitalizations and deaths among women with no identified high-risk conditions were four per 10,000 among women aged 15-44 and six per 10,000 among women aged 45-64.

"Influenza has an enormous impact because 10 percent of adults and close to 30 percent of school-age children are infected each year," said Dr. Marie R. Griffin, professor of Preventive Medicine and senior author of the study.

This study also provides the first population-based evidence that HIV patients are especially hard hit by influenza. Women with HIV had the highest influenza-attributable risk among the women studied. While the study provides justification for more wide-spread use of influenza vaccine for

Contact: Matt Scanlan
Vanderbilt University Medical Center

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