Disclosures: Owusu reports no relevant financial disclosures. Please see the study for all other authors’ relevant financial disclosures.
March 30, 2022
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Rates of serious flu-related illness higher among patients with diabetes

Disclosures: Owusu reports no relevant financial disclosures. Please see the study for all other authors’ relevant financial disclosures.
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Rates of serious influenza-related illness were 1.5 to 2 times higher among older adults with diabetes compared with those without diabetes during five recent influenza seasons, according to a study.

“Influenza circulates annually, and in most years, results in an estimated 140,000 to 710,000 hospitalizations and 12,000 to 52,000 deaths,” Daniel Owusu, DrPH, an epidemiologist in the CDC’s Influenza Division, told Healio. “We wanted to better understand the impact of chronic underlying medical conditions on the risk of severe influenza-associated outcomes, including hospitalization, ICU admission, mechanical ventilation and death.”

Diabetes Words 2019
Rates of serious influenza-related illness were 1.5 to 2 times higher among older adults with diabetes compared with those without diabetes. Source: Adobe Stock.

Owusu and colleagues used the Influenza Hospitalization Surveillance Network to assess influenza outcomes among adults aged 65 years or older hospitalized with influenza during the 2012-2013 influenza season through the 2016-2017 influenza season.

Owusu said they assessed outcomes among older patients with diabetes as an underlying condition because diabetes is highly prevalent in the U.S. population, and older adults have the largest burden of severe influenza disease.

They used the data to calculate rate ratios (RRs) of ICU admission, pneumonia diagnosis, mechanical ventilation and in-hospital death for people with and without diabetes.

Their analysis included 31,934 hospitalized adults, 34% of whom had diabetes. The other listed underlying conditions among patients with and without diabetes included cardiovascular disease (68.5% vs. 57.6%), renal disease (35.6% vs. 19.9%) and obesity (41.7 vs. 22%). More people with diabetes had been vaccinated against influenza compared with those without diabetes, 58.4 vs. 56.1%.

According to the researchers, adults with diabetes had higher rates of influenza-associated hospitalization (RR = 1.57; 95% CI, 1.43-1.72), ICU admission (RR = 1.84; 95% CI, 1.67-2.04), pneumonia (RR = 1.57; 95% CI, 1.42-1.73), mechanical ventilation (RR = 1.95; 95% CI, 1.74-2.20) and in-hospital death (RR = 1.48; 95% CI, 1.23-1.80) compared with those without diabetes.

“Older adults living with diabetes may be at increased risk of severe influenza-associated outcomes,” Owusu said. “Flu vaccination is especially important for people with diabetes because of this increased risk. All individuals ages 6 months and older, including adults living with diabetes, should receive a flu vaccine annually.”