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Influenza Vaccination Reduces Acute Exacerbations of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

       Due to the changeable weather during early spring or late autumn, it is also the season for influenza and the worsening of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).
In the COPD diagnosis, the doctor will usually understand the relevant medical histories, such as symptoms and history of exposure. A lung imaging examination and Lung Function Test (LFT), such as spirometer, will be arranged subsequently. If the patient is diagnosed with COPD, it is generally recommended that they should reduce exposure to risk factors, such as by quitting smoking. Furthermore, bronchodilators and other medical treatments will be given.

       Acute exacerbations of COPD occur with the sudden deterioration of COPD symptoms. Patients may cough up viscous phlegm, increased amounts of phlegm, occasional blood tinged phlegm, have shortness of breath, and so on. Acute deterioration is mainly due to infection, such as from a virus or bacteria, in the respiratory tract. It is essential to strengthen the medical treatment, for instance, by using steroids, antibiotics and so forth. If it is recurrent acute exacerbations, not only will it cause rapid reduction in the patients’ lung function, but also resulting in respiratory failure and subsequent requirement of long-term dependence on oxygen or respiratory devices.

       Apart from quitting smoking and using bronchodilators, the most important thing is to prevent the occurrence of acute deterioration. Hence, it is essential to receive vaccination for Pneumococcus and influenza. According to the most updated study findings from published article on the 《Chest》 medical journal in January this year, the influenza virus will result in a higher chance of hospitalization in COPD patients, or even respiratory failure and ventilator treatment (8.7%). However, through influenza vaccination, the proportion of hospitalization can be reduced by 38%. Therefore, COPD patients should be encouraged to receive annual influenza vaccination. Additionally, starting the end of this year, Taiwan will be introducing the state financed tetra-vaccine. This will greatly benefit patients!