Jan. 23 (UPI) -- Flu vaccinations have sharply cut the number of hospitalizations by COPD patients in Canada, according to a new study.
The data shows that 38 percent fewer people with COPD who received a flu vaccination visited the hospital to treat acute respiratory illness or exacerbation compared to those with COPD who received no vaccination, according to research published this month in the Chest Journal.
The Canadian Immunization Research Network Serious Outcomes Surveillance Network analyzed data collected between 2011 and 2015 to examine the effect of the flu on people with vulnerable immune systems, like seniors and people with serious health conditions.
"Given the results of this study, we strongly encourage patients with COPD to receive the influenza vaccine each year as a protective measure against influenza and its serious health consequences," Sunita Mulpuru, a researcher at The Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, Clinical Epidemiology Program and study author, said in a news release.
Influenza infection causes many hospitalizations among COPD patients. It causes one out of every 10 patients patients with COPD to die and one out five to require stays in intensive care.
COPD causes a person's lungs to thicken, ultimately destroying the area where oxygen flows through.
The researchers don't know why the vaccinations worked so well to curb hospitalizations for COPD patients, but they are confident they had a positive effect.
"We found that influenza infection is a common reason for hospitalization among patients with COPD," Mulpuru said. "Our results suggest that greater awareness is needed among patients with COPD and their health care providers regarding the severe consequences of influenza infection and the benefits of vaccination. Finding methods to improve vaccination rates among patients with COPD is likely to have a significant impact."