Missing Influenza in Our Older Patients

Arefa Cassoobhoy, MD, MPH


January 26, 2018

Hello. I'm Dr Arefa Cassoobhoy, a practicing internist, Medscape advisor, and senior medical director for WebMD. Welcome to Morning Report, our 1-minute news story for primary care.

A recent study looked at influenza testing in more than 1400 patients hospitalized with respiratory illness or a nonlocalizing fever during flu season. Only 28% were tested for the flu by their providers. Also, of the 10% who were flu positive by the study's RT-PCR testing, less than half had a flu test ordered.

The results particularly highlight the vulnerability of adults aged 65 and older. They were tested less often than younger patients. Also, those with heart and lung disease were less likely to be tested. This may be because their presentation was atypical and not the classic flu symptoms we've come to expect.

Regardless, given the higher risk for influenza-related morbidity and mortality in older patients, this study is a reminder that we need to be vigilant about diagnosing flu so that we don't miss the opportunity for early treatment.

Follow Dr Cassoobhoy on Twitter at @ArefaMD


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