TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 27, 2016

Better influenza surveillance, vaccination needed for older Latin Americans

A recent special report called for better influenza surveillance and continued vaccination of individuals aged 65 and over in Latin America to reduce influenza-related deaths, the Pan American Health Organization said on Monday.

The report, which was published in the Pan American Journal of Public Health, drew on information from more than 200 studies and an expert panel to assess the state of influenza treatment, prevention, surveillance and vaccination among the elderly in Latin America. The study concluded that influenza vaccination is vital to preventing complications in older adults and should continue despite a decreased immunological response to vaccination by the elderly.

Influenza can result in mild to very severe symptoms in older adults. Ninety percent of seasonal deaths occur among adults aged 65 years and up.

The report encouraged the use of diagnostic tests in patients who are hospitalized, immunosuppressed or frail and in patients with comorbidities or severe flu-like symptoms out of season. The authors noted the increased use of diagnostic tests would improve surveillance.

The report also recommended additional prevention strategies, including vaccination of school children and healthcare workers, disinfecting common areas and surfaces and teaching routine behaviors such as frequent hand washing and covering sneezes and coughs.

The Pan American Journal of Public Health is an open-access, peer-reviewed monthly journal of the Pan American Health Organization and the World Health Organization.