Most adults with underlying health conditions who have influenza-like illness, or ILI, did not seek care promptly, according to CDC researchers.
“Most adults with underlying medical conditions had higher proportions of self-reported ILI, but were not more likely to seek health care promptly than individuals without these conditions,” the researchers wrote in The Journal of Infectious Diseases. “A third of persons who received a diagnosis of influenza during a medical visit reported receiving treatment with antiviral medication, and the rates of antiviral treatment were not significantly different among those with and without any high-risk condition.”
The researchers used the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) to interview adult respondents about recent ILI and health care-seeking behavior. Those who sought care were asked additional questions about their diagnosis and treatment.
The researchers also obtained ILI and health care-seeking data about children by asking the adult respondents about their child’s illness.
From January to April 2011, there were 75,088 adults and 15,649 children interviews. Among adults, 8.9% reported ILI and 45% of those sought health care. Among children, 33.9% reported ILI and 57% of those sought health care.
Adults aged at least 65 years were more likely to seek care, as were adults with chronic obstruction pulmonary disease (COPD), heart disease, kidney disease, disability, obesity or current or past asthma. Among adults seeking health care, 35% sought care within 2 days and 47% sought care within 3 to 7 days of illness onset. Those with COPD or heart disease were more likely to seek care within 2 days.
Among adults who sought care, 26% received a clinical diagnosis of influenza, and of those, 34% received an influenza antiviral medication. Patients who sought care within 2 days of illness onset were more likely to receive an antiviral medication than those who sought care later.
“We found that prompt health care seeking was associated with increased receipt of antiviral medications,” the researchers wrote. “Our findings highlight the need to educate patients at high risk for influenza complications to seek care early [and] to educate physicians about the benefits of influenza antiviral treatment among high-risk patients.”
Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.