Living in poverty is an independent risk factor for influenza hospitalization, suggesting that poor communities should be specially targeted for vaccine outreach and other efforts to prevent flu and improve outcomes, officials with the CDC said Thursday.

People living in the poorest neighborhoods were nearly twice as likely as those living in more affluent areas to be hospitalized with complications of the flu, in data from the national influenza surveillance network FluSurv-NET published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

For the 2010-11 and 2011-12 influenza seasons combined, the age-adjusted incidence of influenza-related hospitalizations per 100,000 person-years living in high poverty neighborhoods (?20% of people living below the federal poverty level) was 21.5, which was nearly twice the incidence seen in low poverty areas (<5% of people living below the poverty level), researchers reported.