The flu season is upon us and it has hit the country particularly badly this year. What should you and/or your children do to combat the flu this year?
CBS news reports on this year’s catastrophic flu epidemic. Forty-six states are reporting high levels of flu activity.
Why is the flu epidemic so prevalent this year?
Part of the reason is the fact that this year’s vaccine is not a match to this year’s virus strain. This has caused the widespread outbreak. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is actually reporting that the flu epidemic is getting worse and worse in some countries.
Experts say they cannot even guess when this flu season will end despite the fact that we are half way through a typical flu season. This means that every American is still at risk of catching the flu.
What have the consequences of this flu season been so far? Twenty six children have died from the flu as of yet this season. Dr. Frieden, director of the CDC, issued a statement urging more people to use antiviral drugs to help compensate for this year’s less effective vaccine.
Dr. Frieden said, “H3N1, the strain that's currently making the rounds, is a nastier flu virus than other flu viruses, he said, and it therefore requires aggressive treatment. Antiviral flu medications save lives but they're unfortunately underutilized. If you have influenza and get the medicine early you may not need to go to the hospital.”
Which drugs are helpful in combating the flu?
The drugs, Tamiflu and Relenza, decrease the flu virus' ability to reproduce. Many studies show that when taken within 48 hours of illness, they can decrease the danger of the flu and truncate the length of time of illness by a day or two, compared with people who do not take the drug at all.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says these drugs are effective in treating almost all strains of the flu this season. The side effects of the drugs include headaches, nausea and vomiting but most people can tolerate the medications without any serious problems. The FDA has also approved the drug Rapivab for treating the flu.
Dr. Frieden also said, “Unfortunately not enough people know that these drugs can help. The consumer research we have done shows that most people do not know there are drugs to treat the flu. Clinicians may not be aware of the CDC guidance or there is a perception that they do not work, because there is a greater need for antiviral drugs this year some patients may have trouble tracking them down. To get antiviral medication you may have to call around to more than one pharmacy.”
But there is no actual shortage so most people who need the drug should be able to get it.
Right now the CDC recommends antiviral treatment for any person who is hospitalized with a confirmed case of influenza. The CDC particularly recommends it for anyone who has an underlying serious health condition that puts him or her at a greater danger for complications. Children under the age of two and adults over the age of sixty-five should definitely use them according to experts.
But because of the gravity of this year’s flu outbreak the CDC is recommending that people start using these drugs even more results come in confirming that they have the flu. Experts are also urging people to start ahead of time, because the cost of copays on the drugs is much cheaper than the alternative, which will be copays for hospital stays if the flu is there and worsens.