Surveillance for outbreaks of influenza-like illness in the institutionalized elderly
Respiratory outbreaks are common in aged-care facilities (ACFs), are both underreported and frequently identified late, and are often associated with considerable burden of illness and death. There is emerging evidence that active surveillance coupled with early and systematic intervention can reduce this burden. Active surveillance for influenza-like illness and rapid diagnosis of influenza were established in 16 ACFs in Sydney, Australia, prior to the winter of 2006. A point-of-care influenza test and laboratory direct immunofluorescence tests for common respiratory viruses were used for diagnosis. We achieved early identification of seven respiratory disease outbreaks, two of which were caused by influenza. For the influenza outbreaks, antiviral treatment and prophylaxis were initiated 4â6 days from symptom onset in the primary case. A simple active surveillance system for influenza was successfully implemented and resulted in early detection of influenza and other respiratory disease outbreaks. This enabled earlier implementation of prevention and control measures and increased the potential effectiveness of anti-influenza chemoprophylaxis.