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It’s Not too Late to Get your Flu Vaccine

Flu Season Continues


The proportion of deaths due to pneumonia and influenza (P&I) reported through the 122 Cities Mortality Reporting System is significantly elevated. This is the highest P&I in nearly a decade.

Antiviral treatment (Tamiflu/oseltamivir) of flu works best when started as soon as possible after symptoms develop. Antiviral drugs are prescription medicines that can shorten the duration of illness and lessen symptoms but, most importantly, they can reduce serious complications from flu infection, including hospitalization, intensive care unit (ICU) admissions, and deaths.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention routinely recommends vaccination as long as influenza viruses are circulating.

In addition to vaccination and antiviral drugs, everyday actions can help mitigate the risk of infection. Flu spreads mainly in droplets expelled when people with flu cough, sneeze, or talk. As always, stay away from people who are sick. If you are sick, stay home to avoid spreading your illness to others.

Influenza activity remains elevated in most of the country, although it may have peaked.

The first oseltamivir-resistant 2009 H1N1flu virus detected in the U.S. during the 2012-2013 influenza season has been reported. The majority of currently circulating influenza viruses are susceptible to the neuraminidase inhibitor antiviral medications, oseltamivir and zanamivir. Antiviral treatment with oseltamivir or zanamivir is recommended as early as possible for patients with confirmed or suspected influenza who have severe, complicated, or progressive illness; who require hospitalization; or who are at greater risk for serious influenza-related complications.

Conclusion:  Given the continued prevalence of influenza nationwide, the increased proportion of hospitalizable complications and death due to this year’s flu variety, and some indication of emerging resistance of some of the flu strains to the available flu medication (Tamiflu), it will be highly advisable for anyone not already vaccinated (or those vaccinated before October and at high-risk for flu complications, such as those 65 yrs and older) to be vaccinated or re-vaccinated in the next 4-8 weeks (depending upon the course of community-wide disease activity) in Houston.

Finally, close contacts (such as household members of active, documented flu cases) should be considered for treatment with a single daily preventive dose of Tamiflu until the ill person has recovered.

Edward R. Rensimer, MD
Director, IMC