CDC encourages antiviral treatment for influenza

January 14, 2015
Area(s) of Interest: Infectious Diseases Public Health Vaccination 

With a poorly matched influenza vaccine and influenza activity high across much of the country, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is urging physicians to prescribe antiviral drugs to patients who are very ill with flu-like symptoms, particularly those over age 65 and those at high risk of complications from the virus.

According to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), flu activity in California is beginning to increase. The first influenza death in the state of a person under the age of 65 for the 2014-2015 season was confirmed last week.

CDC Director Thomas Frieden, M.D., said in a conference call last week that if administered in the first 48 hours of exposure antiviral drugs can impact the length and severity of patients’ illness. Because antivirals are most effective if administered in the first 48 hours, the CDC urges that they be prescribed for high risk patients with flu-like symptoms, even before ordering tests to confirm the virus.

Physicians are also encouraged to continue vaccinating patients against the flu, even though early reports indicate the vaccine is not well matched to this year’s strain. “Flu activity is beginning to increase statewide, including reports of hospitalizations and severe disease,” said California’s State Health Officer Ron Chapman, M.D. “We are early on in what could be a severe flu season, and I encourage everyone who has not yet gotten a flu vaccination to do so. The influenza vaccine remains the most effective way to protect yourself from the flu.”

For more information on the use of antivirals to treat influenza, see the updated CDC Influenza Antiviral Medications: Summary for Clinicians. For more information on influenza activity in California, see the CDPH website.


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