New WHO/Europe guidance for prevention and control of influenza in long-term care facilities

The population of the WHO European Region is ageing rapidly; the proportion of people aged 65 and older is forecast to increase from 14% in 2010 to 25% in 2050.

At present, the chances of the elderly spending their later years in good health and well-being vary within and between countries. As the elderly, as well as other vulnerable groups, are most likely to be severely affected by seasonal influenza, WHO recommends that they be vaccinated. Vaccination is a key intervention in WHO/Europe’s Strategy and action plan for healthy ageing in Europe 2012–2020.

However, uptake of seasonal influenza vaccines in these groups is low in many countries and is decreasing overall in the Region, while influenza outbreaks in long-term care facilities for the elderly and disabled are common.

WHO/Europe therefore prepared guidance specifically focused on the prevention and control of health care-associated influenza. This best-practice document incorporates current evidence and tools to prevent and manage outbreaks of influenza in long-term care facilities. The guidance was developed with the WHO Collaborating Centre for Pandemic and Epidemic Research at the University of Nottingham, United Kingdom, and with input from influenza experts from the Region’s network.