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Take Your Tamiflu!

February 11th, 2013  |  The Blog

So you have the flu, what now? There is help; you just have to accept it in a timely manner. The 2012-2013 flu season is, so far, the worst one in recent years. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the senior population is the most affected. About half of the hospitalizations and 90% of the deaths caused by the flu have been seniors. The circulating strain of influenza this season is predominantly influenza A or H3N2. CDC Recommendations Antiviral drugs, Tamiflu (oseltamivir) or Relenza (zanamivir), work to alleviate flu symptoms if they are administered within 48 hours of flu symptoms beginning. It is especially important for high-risk patients to start treatment with an antiviral medication as soon as possible, according to the CDC. High-risk patients include the elderly, young children and any person with underlying medical conditions like asthma, diabetes and those who are immunosuppressed. Tracking Flu Activity The CDC tracks flu activity in several ways:

  • The number of respiratory specimens testing positive for influenza
  • The percentage of outpatient visits for influenza-like illness (ILI)
  • The number and rate of hospitalizations for flu-related illnesses
  • The number and rate of reported deaths from influenza

Antiviral Drugs When started within 48 hours of starting with symptoms of the flu, antiviral medications are effective. They work to:

  • Reduce symptoms
  • Shorten the duration of the illness
  • Prevent serious complications, which can result in hospitalization or death

Relenza or zanamivir is an oral inhalation and is not recommended for patients with any form of airway disease. This recommendation limits the patient population who can take Relenza. Tamiflu or oseltamivir is the more popular antiviral medication, although the usage of the drug is lower this flu season than it was during the 2009-2010 flu pandemic. The CDC recommends taking Tamiflu even if the rapid flu test is negative because there have been false negative readings reported. Drug Availability The rate of flu cases has risen dramatically over the past several weeks, according to the CDC. As a result, hospitalizations and flu-related deaths have also increased. Lab confirmed cases of the flu are running about 18.8 per 100,000 population so far this season. The rate for senior citizens is dramatically higher at 82 cases per 100,000 population. There have been spot shortages of the Tamiflu noted but the manufacturer; Genentech “anticipates having sufficient supply of Tamiflu capsules to meet demand for this flu season.” The best defense against the flu is to get vaccinated. It is never too late to do so. Flu vaccine manufacturers have committed to the CDC to produce 10 million additional doses for the current season. This is in addition to the 135 million doses that are already distributed throughout the U.S. With the country a little more than halfway through the 2012-2013 flu season, the CDC strongly urges Tamiflu to lower the influenza death rate for those who are unfortunate enough to contract the illness.

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