Flu season may contribute to kidney failure deaths, study finds

When influenza-like illness spreads in a community, death rates increase for patients on dialysis, a study published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology found.

In an average year, severe respiratory infections are likely to contribute to more than 1,000 deaths among U.S. patients who have end-stage kidney failure, the researchers estimated. To study this issue, the researchers analyzed CDC data from 2000 to 2013.

Compared to patterns during the summer, the fall increase in flu and flu-like illness of about 1 percent  was linked to a 1.5 percent increase in deaths among kidney failure patients. In winter, an estimated 1 percent increase in these respiratory infections was linked to a 2 percent rise in kidney patient deaths.

Although flu-like illnesses may not be the direct cause of death in these cases, it may contribute to other causes of death, senior study author David Gilbertson, PhD, told Reuters.

For example, flu-like illnesses can induce acute inflammation, making people with kidney failure vulnerable to other infections, or even to cardiovascular events, Dr. Gilbertson said.

Flu vaccines, protective masks and increased disinfection of dialysis units during flu season could help protect kidney failure patients from possibly deadly flu-like illnesses, the researchers said.

More articles on clinical leadership and infection control:
Flu vaccine offering moderate protection this season, CDC says
Physician viewpoint: Why are we still using stethoscopes? 
The hospital ID bracelet of the future: 5 hospitals weigh in

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