BACKGROUND: The role of non-bacterial infection in respiratory exacerbations of cystic fibrosis has been studied less than that of bacterial infection. Some non-bacterial infections, such as influenza A, may be associated with acute respiratory deterioration and may be preventable. METHODS AND RESULTS: Three patients with cystic fibrosis showed severe deterioration in lung function and general wellbeing during the influenza A virus epidemic in the winter of 1989-90. Serological confirmation of influenza A virus infection was obtained in each case. CONCLUSIONS: As immunisation against influenza A virus is safe and provokes an adequate antibody response in patients with cystic fibrosis, it is concluded that patients with cystic fibrosis should be offered immunisation at the beginning of each influenza season. Rapid diagnostic tests and the use of antiviral drugs may have a prophylactic role in minimising lung damage.
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