Vaccine. 2022 Jun 9:S0264-410X(22)00476-5. doi: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2022.04.048. Online ahead of print.
BACKGROUND: Influenza outbreaks in aged care facilities are a major public health concern. In response to the severe 2017 influenza season in Australia, enhanced influenza vaccines were introduced from 2018 onwards for those over 65 and more emphasis was placed on improving vaccination rates among aged care staff. During the COVID-19 pandemic, these efforts were then further escalated to reduce the additional burden that influenza could pose to facilities.
METHODS: An observational epidemiological study was conducted from 2018 to 2020 in nine Sydney (Australia) aged care facilities of the same provider. De-identified vaccination data and physical layout data were collected from participating facility managers from 2018 to 2020. Active surveillance of influenza-like illness was carried out from 2018 to 2020 influenza seasons. Correlation and Poisson regression analyses were carried out to explore the relationship between physical layout variables to occurrence of influenza cases.
RESULTS: Influenza cases were low in 2018 and 2019, and there were no confirmed influenza cases identified in 2020. Vaccination rates increased among staff by 50.5% and residents by 16.8% over the three-year period of surveillance from 2018 to 2020. For each unit increase in total number of beds, common areas, single rooms, all types of rooms (including double occupancy rooms), the influenza cases increased by 1.02 (95% confidence interval:1.018-1.025), 1.04 (95% confidence interval: 1.019-1.073), 1.03 (95% confidence interval: 1.016-1 0.038) and 1.02 (95% confidence interval:1.005-1.026) times which were found to be statistically significant. For each unit increase in the proportion of shared rooms, influenza cases increased by 1.004 (95% confidence interval:1.0001-1.207) which was found to be statistically significant.
CONCLUSIONS: There is a relationship between influenza case counts and aspects of the physical layout such as facility size, and this should be considered in assessing risk of outbreaks in aged care facilities. Increased vaccination rates in staff and COVID-19 prevention and control measures may have eliminated influenza in the studied facilities in 2020.