Comparing estimates of influenza-associated hospitalization and death among adults with congestive heart failure based on how influenza season is defined
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BACKGROUND: There is little consensus about how the influenza season should be defined in studies that assess influenza-attributable risk. The objective of this study was to compare estimates of influenza-associated risk in a defined clinical population using four different methods of defining the influenza season. METHODS: Using the Studies of Left Ventricular Dysfunction (SOLVD) clinical database and national influenza surveillance data from 1986-87 to 1990-91, four definitions were used to assess influenza-associated risk: (a) three-week moving average of positive influenza isolates is at least 5%, (b) three-week moving average of positive influenza isolates is at least 10%, (c) first and last positive influenza isolate are identified, and (d) 5% of total number of positive isolates for the season are obtained. The clinical data were from adults aged 21 to 80 with physician-diagnosed congestive heart failure. All-cause hospitalization and all-cause mortality during the influenza seasons and non-influenza seasons were compared using four definitions of the influenza season. Incidence analyses and Cox regression were used to assess the effect of exposure to influenza season on all-cause hospitalization and death using all four definitions. RESULTS: There was a higher risk of hospitalization associated with the influenza season, regardless of how the start and stop of the influenza season was defined. The adjusted risk of hospitalization was 8 to 10 percent higher during the influenza season compared to the non-influenza season when the different definitions were used. However, exposure to influenza was not consistently associated with higher risk of death when all definitions were used. When the 5% moving average and first/last positive isolate definitions were used, exposure to influenza was associated with a higher risk of death compared to non-exposure in this clinical population (adjusted hazard ratios [HR], 1.16; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.04 to 1.29 and adjusted HR, 1.19; 95% CI, 1.06 to 1.33, respectively). CONCLUSION: Estimates of influenza-attributable risk may vary depending on how influenza season is defined and the outcome being assessed.
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