Vaccinating health-care workers reduces mortality from influenza among elderly patients in long-term care, according to Dr William Carman (institute of virology, University of Glasgow) and colleagues.
They report in the Lancet (2000;355:93) how they carried out a multicentre, randomised, controlled study to find out whether vaccinating health care workers lowered mortality and reduced the frequency of laboratory-confirmed influenza infection in elderly patients in 20 long-term care geriatric hospitals.
The hospitals were randomly offered routine vaccination of health care workers or no vaccination. The staff involved were nurses, doctors, therapists, porters and ancillary staff. In total, 1,437 patients were included in the study and 50 per cent of these were randomly sampled for virological surveillance for influenza.
The authors found that the mortality among patients in hospitals where staff had been vaccinated was 13.6 per cent and the corresponding figure for those in which vaccination had not occurred was 22.4 per cent. There was no difference between the two groups of hospitals in the number of patients positive for influenza infection (5.4 per cent and 6. 7 per cent, respectively).
Dr Carman and colleagues conclude that there was a substantial decrease in mortality among patients at hospitals where the staff had been vaccinated but that there was no difference in the incidence of non-fatal influenza.