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Flu Season Starts Strong And Could Get Worse

The number of people in the United States seeking care for influenza-like illness (ILI) has been increasing significantly over the last four weeks, according to the most recent flu report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Confirmed cases of influenza increased from 29.6 percent last week to 31.6 percent this week. Two child deaths were documented as influenza-associated, bringing the total to 18. The complete number of fatalities due to pneumonia and influenza has stayed under the epidemic limit.

Last flu season the percentage of people seeking care for ILI was 2.2 percent at its peak, while this year it has already reached 5.6 percent. In comparison, during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, ILI reached 7.7 percent.

ILI generally remains at or below the baseline for an average of 12 weeks, and has done so for the last 10 seasons. During the 2009 pandemic, ILI averages stayed above the national baseline for approximately 19 weeks.

The CDC recommends flu shots and antiviral medication when it is needed at this time. Specifically, they suggest Tamiflu and Relenza to treat the flu.

For patients who are seriously ill, hospitalized, or at an elevated risk of serious complications, the CDC suggests antiviral treatment as soon as symptoms start. This includes at risk groups such as:

  • adults 65 or older
  • pregnant women
  • people with medical conditions
  • young children

Treatment should be started as soon as a person suspects illness. People should not wait for confirmatory results, regardless of whether or not they had a vaccination or rapid test results.

Last week the Food and Drug Administration approved the use of Tamiflu for infants under the age of 12 months. Tamiflu was originally approved in 1999 for the treatment of influenza in adults. Up until this point, it was only approved for children over the age of one. It is not approved for use on babies under two weeks of age.

A prior report by the CDC in December of 2012 established that this season’s flu started early. H3N2, a virus that appears to make people sicker, has been dominating, according to experts.

Written by Kelly Fitzgerald
Copyright: Medical News Today
Not to be reproduced without permission of Medical News Today

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