New research has shown that vaccinating the staff in private nursing homes as well as residents with a flu jab can significantly reduce the chance of clusters of influenza-like illness.
The research, carried out by the Rand Corporation and published in an American medical journal, found that homes were 60 percent less likely to have four or more cases of flu-like symptoms reported in 72 hours if 55 per cent of staff and 89 per cent of residents were vaccinated with a flu jab.
Researcher for the study Lisa Shugarman said: "Simply immunising nursing home residents with flu jabs is not going to ensure they're protected from getting the flu.
"It's only the combination of high rates of immunisation for residents and staff that appears to make the difference."
The immune systems of the elderly are not as strong as younger adults which could explain why the vaccination of staff proved a key factor – while flu jabs are only an estimated 23 per cent effective for nursing home residents, that figure is about 86 per cent for healthy adults.
The study could prove important in reducing outbreaks of influenza-like illnesses which can be serious or even mortal in the elderly and infirm.