Important information about influenza
Thursday, January 25, 2018
Posted by: DCMS
A Message from DCMS Past-President Dr. Mobeen Rathore:
Influenza season this year is one of the worst in years and we have not even reached the peak of the season in Florida and north Florida. The current predominant circulating virus strain is H3N2, which is known to cause more severe illness. In addition, the current season vaccine may not be as effective, although still very beneficial.
As we face this developing epidemic we wanted to share with you the following:
1. INFLUENZA VACCINE: Influenza vaccine remains the most important tool in our toolbox to address influenza infection in individuals and populations. IF not already vaccinated, all individuals eligible for influenza vaccine CAN STILL GET THE VACCINE. Everyone six months of age and older who does not have a contraindication to the vaccine should be vaccinated. However, highest risk patients are most important. This includes the elderly, pregnant women, individuals with chronic healthcare conditions, and children. They are especially at high risk for complications from getting influenza infection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers more details on the populations at higher risk for complications: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/high_risk.htm
2. INFLUENZA TESTING: In addition, the following CDC website has the algorithm for diagnostic evaluation: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/professionals/diagnosis/consider-influenza-testing.htm
3. SIMPLE PATIENT ADVICE: Certain simple practices of good hand hygiene and cough etiquette can be very effective in preventing transmission of influenza infection.
4. LABORATORY TESTING FOR INFLUENZA: There is currently a shortage of reagents to test for influenza. If your clinical suspicion for influenza is high, it may not be necessary to perform laboratory testing if you are going to treat for influenza regardless. More information on diagnosing influenza is available at this CDC website: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/professionals/diagnosis/index.htm.
5. INFLUENZA TREATMENT: Oseltamivir (generic or brand) is effective in treating influenza and works best if used within the first 48 hours of symptoms. There may still be clinical benefit if treatment is started after the first 48 hours. More information about influenza antiviral drugs is available at this CDC website: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/antivirals/whatyoushould.htm
We are not aware of shortage of Oseltamivir, although there may be challenges of finding it at retail pharmacies because of increased demands. Liquid Oseltamivir availability may even be a more significant issue. We are working of trying to resolve this issue.
6. SICK AT WORK: Individuals with influenza can transmit the infection to others around them. Working while sick - “Presenteeism” - with influenza can continue the spread of influenza outbreak.
Please keep yourselves updated by visiting the CDC and Florida Department of Health websites!
Mobeen H. Rathore, MD
DCMS Past President