Background: Influenza outbreaks continue to occur in nursing homes despite high vaccination coverage among residents. Recommendations for outbreak control in institutions such as nursing homes advises use of antiviral drugs to reduce influenza transmission.
Methods: Influenza surveillance was performed among elderly residents of nursing homes in Michigan during 2 influenza seasons. The antiviral drug oseltamivir was used for outbreak control at the discretion of nursing home staff once influenza transmission was confirmed by virus isolation or rapid antigen detection.
Results: During 2000-2001, influenza was not confirmed in any of the 28 participating homes, despite transmission of types A (H1N1) and B in the community. During 2001-2002, influenza type A (H3N2) transmission was confirmed in 8 (26%) of 31 participating homes; influenza vaccine coverage among residents was 57%- 98% in outbreak-associated homes. Oseltamivir was used in all homes with influenza transmission; outbreak control varied according to the rapidity of outbreak recognition and the extent of antiviral use. Reported adverse events were primarily gastrointestinal reactions and rashes. Analysis of the usefulness of rapid antigen detection tests for outbreak recognition indicated a sensitivity of only 77% (specificity, 92%).
Conclusions: Oseltamivir was reasonably well tolerated, and its use, along with continued promotion of vaccination coverage among nursing home residents and staff, should be a valuable addition to institutional outbreak-control strategies.