Workers age 50-64 who received influenza vaccine lost substantially
fewer days of work and worked fewer days while ill, according to a new
study in the Feb. 1 issue of Clinical Infectious Diseases, now
available online. Given the concerns about antiviral drug resistance
among this year’s flu strains, the study highlights the importance of
vaccination to prevent influenza.
The burden of influenza-like
illnesses during the flu season is significant in working adults between
the ages of 50 and 64. Uncertainty regarding the impact of the flu as
well as the benefits of vaccination may contribute to low vaccination
rates in that segment of the population.
The new study included
497 people, 404 of whom received an influenza vaccination. An
influenza-like illness was reported by 17.1 percent of the study
participants and was responsible for 39 percent of all work days lost.
On average, the individuals were sick for eight days, missed one and a
half days of work, and worked for four days while still symptomatic.
Additionally, 30 percent visited a health care provider. The symptoms of
illness appeared more severe in unvaccinated individuals, although the
differences were not statistically significant.
unvaccinated study participants, influenza-like illnesses were
associated with 45 percent of all days of illness during the flu season.
However, with vaccination, a substantial reduction of almost 45 percent
in the risk of illness was observed as well as a reduction of more than
60 percent in the numbers of days of illness, work loss, working while
ill, and days in bed.
According to study author Kristin Nichol,
MD, of the Minneapolis Veterans Affairs Medical Center, “The
implications are that the prevention of influenza-like illnesses can
have a huge impact on the health and work productivity of adults 50 to
64, and we should do more to make sure that this high priority group is
vaccinated. It is a win-win for the worker with fewer illnesses, days of
illness, days in bed, etc. and for the employer with improved worker
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
recently reported high rates of resistance to the popular antiviral drug
oseltamivir in one of this year’s flu strains. “Given the concerns
about antiviral resistance,” Dr. Nichol said, “this study is a reminder
of the importance of influenza vaccine. It’s not too late to get your
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