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BMJ. 1997 Oct 25;315(7115):1060-4.

Acute viral infections of upper respiratory tract in elderly people living in the community: comparative, prospective, population based study of disease burden.

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  • 1Leicester University School of Medicine, Department of Microbiology and Immunology.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

To evaluate the disease burden of upper respiratory infections in elderly people living at home.

DESIGN:

Prospective surveillance of elderly people.

INTERVENTION:

None.

SETTING:

Leicestershire, England

SUBJECTS:

533 subjects 60 to 90 years of age.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES:

Pathogens, symptoms, restriction of activity, duration of illness, medical consultations, interval between onset of illness and medical consultation, antibiotic use, admission to hospital, and death.

RESULTS:

231 pathogens were identified for 211 (43%) of 497 episodes for which diagnostic specimens were available: 121 (52%) were rhinoviruses, 59 (26%) were coronaviruses, 22 (9.5%) were influenza A or B, 17 (7%) were respiratory syncytial virus, 7 (3%) were parainfluenza viruses, and 3 (1%) were Chlamydia species; an adenovirus and Mycoplasma pneumoniae caused one infection each. Infections occurred at a rate of 1.2 episodes per person per annum (95% confidence interval 1.0 to 1.7; range 0-10) and were clinically indistinguishable. Lower respiratory tract symptoms complicated 65% of upper respiratory infections and increased the medical consultation rate 2.4-fold (chi 2 test P < 0.001). The median interval between onset of illness and medical consultation was 3 days for influenza and 5 days for other infections. Rhinoviruses caused the greatest disease burden overall followed by episodes of unknown aetiology, coronaviruses, influenza A and B, and respiratory syncytial virus.

CONCLUSIONS:

Respiratory viruses cause substantial morbidity in elderly people. Although respiratory syncytial virus and influenza cause considerable individual morbidity, the burden of disease from rhinovirus infections and infections of unknown aetiology seems greater overall. The interval between onset of illness and consultation together with diagnostic difficulties raises concern regarding the role of antiviral drugs in treating influenza.

Comment in

PMID:
9366736
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC2127683
Free PMC Article
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