Nine out of 10 deaths from seasonal flu occur in people 65 and older, the fastest-growing age group in Latin America

Washington, D.C., 5 August 2013 (PAHO/WHO) — A special report published in the latest issue of the Pan American Journal of Public Health calls for better influenza surveillance and continued vaccination of people aged 65 and over in Latin America, to reduce the disproportionate number of influenza-related deaths and illnesses in this fast-growing age group.

The report, Influenza among the elderly in the Americas: a consensus statement, draws on information from over 200 studies and an expert panel to assess the state of influenza surveillance, vaccination, prevention, and treatment among the elderly in Latin America. It urges better influenza surveillance to help authorities "quantify the impact of influenza and to identify areas for improvement" and concludes that influenza vaccination is critical to preventing complications in older adults and should continue, despite evidence that the elderly may have a de­creased immunological response to vaccination.

Influenza can have mild to very severe clinical manifestations in older adults, with 90% of seasonal deaths occurring among those aged ?65 years. The report encourages the use of diagnostic tests in patients who are frail, immunosuppressed, hospitalized, or have comorbidities as well as patients with severe flu-like symptoms out of season. Increased use of diagnostic tests would also improve surveillance, the report notes.

Other recommended prevention strategies range from vaccination of schoolchildren and healthcare workers to routine behaviors such as frequent hand washing, covering coughs and sneezes, and disinfecting common areas and surfaces. The report also "strongly supports the mandatory vaccination of healthcare professionals as a means of protecting older adults from influenza and its complications."

Other articles in the current issue of PAJPH:

  • Effectiveness of lipid-lowering therapy among a sample of patients in Colombia
  • Innovation in the organization of health services delivery within the Metropolitan System of Solidarity in Peru
  • Small area variation in diabetes prevalence in Puerto Rico
  • Trend in cervical cancer mortality in Chile: application of joinpoint regression models
  • Immunogenicity and safety of 13-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine in Mexico
  • Molecular characterization of Streptococcus pneumoniae serotype 1 invasive isolates in Colombia
  • Oral rapid test: an alternative to traditional HIV screening in Chile
  • Correlation between socioeconomic factors and in-hospital mortality from ischemic stroke in a hospital cohort in Colombia, 2003—2006
  • Self-rating of oral health according to the Oral Health Impact Profile and associated factors: a system review

ThePan American Journal of Public Health (PAJPH) is an open-access, peer-reviewed monthly journal of PAHO/WHO. Its mission is to disseminate scientific public health information to strengthen national and local health systems and improve the health of the peoples of the Americas.

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