Flu Shot Could Keep Diabetes Patients Out of Hospital

Diabetes patients urged to get flu vaccine because of greater health risks

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) With flu season underway, people with diabetes may want to take extra care. Diabetes patients face a high risk of flu-related health complications. An annual flu shot, however, may help.

Researchers from Canada recently found that working-age adults with diabetes faced a higher risk of getting the flu.

These researchers backed guidelines urging diabetes patients to get the flu vaccine.

"If you have diabetes, talk to your doctor about the flu vaccine."

Jeffrey A. Johnson, PhD, senior director with Alberta Health Services Obesity, Diabetes and Nutrition Strategic Clinical Network, and professor at the School of Public Health at the University of Alberta in Canada, and his colleagues conducted this study on diabetes and the flu.

The flu, or influenza, is a contagious respiratory illness caused by viruses that infect the nose, throat and lungs. With diabetes, the body has a harder time fighting off these viruses. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), diabetes patients are more likely to be hospitalized or die from flu.

Dr. Johnson and colleagues reviewed data on 56,513 adults with diabetes and 110,202 individuals without diabetes.

Patients included a mix of men and women all under the age of 65, with an average age of 50 to 51.

The authors noted that while only 16 percent of the adults with diabetes in this study had received the influenza vaccination, far fewer adults without diabetes were vaccinated (7 percent).

Although those with diabetes were more likely to be vaccinated for the flu, diabetes patients had a 6 percent greater increase in hospitalizations associated with influenza.

Dr. Johnson told dailyRx News, “This increased risk is small, but nonetheless is justification for targeting adults with diabetes to get vaccinated. Our findings provide support for the current guidelines and for the public health message of getting an annual influenza vaccination, especially for adults living with diabetes.”

The American Diabetes Association and the Canadian Diabetes Association recommend vaccinating individuals with diabetes against flu.

Dr. Johnson added that data specifically on the effectiveness of the flu vaccine was not part of this study and more research is needed in this area.

The investigators theorized that even if effectiveness were as low as 20 percent with the vaccine, vaccinating adults with diabetes could be cost-effective by reducing hospitalization costs.

People with diabetes are about three times more likely to die with flu and pneumonia, according to the American Diabetes Association.

Flu.gov says that those with diabetes who get the flu should keep careful track of their blood sugar because it can be affected by the illness. The shot, rather than the nasal spray, is recommended for diabetes patients.

This study was published January 24 in Diabetologia, the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes.

Review Date: 
January 24, 2014
Last Updated:
January 27, 2014