Treating older adults for flu is cost-effective, but preventing it with a yearly flu shot is better

ly those with heart or lung disease. Flu kills about 36,000 people each year in the United States, most of them over 65, and sends more than 100,000 people to hospitals. The U.S. Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices estimates that fewer than two-thirds of people over 65 get yearly vaccination against influenza, even though the vaccine is recommended for all adults over 50 and for younger people at high risk for complications of flu.

"Doctors are often hesitant to prescribe anti-flu drugs because they're expensive and won't work if the patient has a virus other than influenza," says Rothberg. "But for people over age 65, influenza is so dangerous that treatment with antiviral drugs is very cost-effective, even when the doctor isn't sure of the diagnosis." Rothberg cautions that anti-flu treatment only works if started within the first 48 hours after symptoms appear.


Contact: Susan Anderson
American College of Physicians

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