Early treatment for people who are aged 65 years or older and are hospitalized for influenza shortens the time they spend in the hospital and reduces the need for extended care after discharge, according to a study published online September 2 in Clinical Infectious Diseases. 

Because this age group is at high risk for complications from influenza and antiviral medications are most effective when initiated early, the CDC already recommends early treatment. 

Lead author Sandra S. Chaves, MD, MSc, and colleagues collected data on patients aged 65 years and older living within the community during three consecutive flu seasons from more than 250 hospitals in 13 states. Those patients who sought medical care or who were hospitalized within 2 days of the onset of their illness and who were treated with antiviral medications within the first 4 days of illness spent substantially less time in the hospital than those who received treatment 4 days after their illness began.

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Those who sought care more than 2 days after the onset of their illness also spent less time hospitalized, but the benefit was not as substantial as those who sought care earlier. Early treatment was associated with a 25% to 60% lower likelihood to require extended care after discharge from the hospital.