Key points to consider about the importance of flu vaccination and prompt treatment for flu, particularly in high risk patients:
1. Children younger than 2 years, and people 65 and older are at high risk for complications from the flu. These two age groups have the highest flu hospitalization rates.
2. Antiviral drugs are an important second line of defense to treat flu illness. (They are not a substitute for vaccination.)
- Data indicate that flu antiviral drugs can reduce symptoms and prevent serious flu complications.
- For high risk patients, antiviral drugs can mean the difference between a milder illness and a hospital stay.
- Antiviral drugs are under-utilized. A recent study showed that only 19% of high risk outpatients who had the flu were treated with flu antiviral drugs.
- CDC recommends that all severely ill people and people who are at high risk of serious flu complications with suspected flu be treated with flu antiviral drugs as soon as possible (without confirmatory testing).
- Studies show that flu antiviral drugs work best for treatment when they are started within 2 days of getting sick. However, starting them later may still be helpful.
- There are three FDA-approved influenza antiviral drugs recommended by CDC this season. The brand names for these are Tamiflu® (generic name oseltamivir), Relenza® (generic name zanamivir), and Rapivab® (generic name peramivir). Peramivir was approved in December 2014. It is given by IV.
3. Even though vaccine effectiveness for H3N2 is reduced this season, CDC continues to recommend vaccination because it may still provide some protection, including reducing more severe flu outcomes like hospitalization and death. Also, flu vaccines protect against three or four different viruses and it’s possible that other viruses will circulate later in the season.