Early Flu Treatment Reduces Hospital Length of Stay for Older Adults

Patients age 65 years and older who are hospitalized for the flu can benefit from the use of early antiviral treatment, according to a new report from the CDC. The early use of flu antiviral medications reduces hospital length of stay and risk of needing extended care after discharge.

Patients age 65 years and older who are hospitalized for the flu can benefit from the use of early antiviral treatment, according to a new report from the CDC. The early use of flu antiviral medications reduces hospital length of stay and risk of needing extended care after discharge.

People who are 65 years and older are at a high risk of serious flu complications, and flu antiviral medications work best when they are started early. The results of the study were published in Clinical Infectious Diseases.

The researchers collected data during the 2010-2013 flu seasons from more than 250 hospitals in 13 states on 6593 community-dwelling adults age 65 years and older who were hospitalized for influenza. Overall, 18% of the patients required extended care after being discharged.

Patients who were hospitalized within 2 days of illness onset and treated with antiviral medications within the first 4 days benefited from the early treatment. They had hospitals stays that were substantially shorter than patients who received treatment more than 4 days after illness onset.

The benefit of early treatment had an effect on the need for care after discharge. Patients treated early were 25% to 60% less likely to need extended care after leaving the hospital. Other factors that increased the risk for extended care needs included older age, the presence of neurologic disorders, admission to the intensive care unit, and pneumonia at the time of admission.

"Flu can be extremely serious in older people, leading to hospitalization and in some cases long-term disability," Dan Jernigan, MD, MPH, director of CDC's Influenza Division, said in a statement. “This important study shows that people 65 and older should seek medical care early when they develop flu symptoms.”