Widespread flu is reported across the United States, and the most common virus showing up is one that has been associated with more serious complications for older people and young children.
As flu deaths and illnesses continue to rise, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued updated information and recommendations for using antiviral medications to treat flu. CDC says all hospitalized patients and all high-risk patients with suspected flu should be treated as soon as possible with one of three available antiviral medications – Tamiflu® (oseltamivir), Relenza® (zanamivir) or Rapivab® (peramivir).
“When indicated, antiviral treatment should be started as soon as possible after illness onset and should not be delayed even for a few hours to wait for the results of testing,” CDC says. “Ideally, treatment should be initiated within 48 hours of symptoms onset. However, antiviral treatment initiated later…can still be beneficial for some patients…up to 4 or 5 days after symptom onset.”
Common flu symptoms include fever, dry cough, sore throat, and muscle pain. However, CDC points out that flu affects children differently from adults. Classic flu symptoms are not always present in kids, especially those younger than 5. Instead, they are likely to have gastrointestinal problems like nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, as well as earaches. Some may even experience high fever and seizures.
- Tamiflu is available as a pill or liquid; approved for ages 2 weeks and up
- Relenza® is an inhaled powder approved for ages 7 and up, but not recommended for people with respiratory conditions like asthma and COPD
- Rapivab® is an intravenous medication that must be administered by a healthcare provider, approved in December 2014 for ages 18 years and up
CDC says the following people should be treated with antivirals if they suspect they have influenza:
- Hospitalized flu patients
- Those who have severe or prolonged progressive symptoms, including pneumonia
- Children under 2 and adults over 65
- People with chronic pulmonary disorders, including asthma and COPD
- Pregnant women and women who’ve recently given birth (within 2 weeks)
- All with cardiovascular, renal, hepatic, hematological and metabolic disorders (including diabetes) or neurologic and neurodevelopment conditions
- Persons with immunosuppression, including that caused by medications or by HIV infection
- Persons younger than 19 years who are receiving long-term aspirin therapy
- American Indians and Alaska Natives
- Those who are morbidly obese
- Residents of nursing homes and other chronic-care facilities
Read the full CDC health alert at http://emergency.cdc.gov/han/han00375.asp or a fact sheet for patients at http://www.cdc.gov/flu/antivirals/whatyoushould.htm