Influenza season has now arrived. Most years we start seeing cases in the late fall , peak by January and February and continued activity until the early spring. So far this year has seen a relatively “mild” degree of influenza activity in Illinois and throughout most of the country, but the CDC has reported some severe and even fatal cases.
While many people use the term “flu” when referring to a whole variety of different symptoms, true influenza symptoms generally includes fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, muscle aches and headache. ( Vomiting and diarrhea are not common in adults). While most otherwise healthy adults develop an uncomplicated course that resolves in a few days to a couple weeks, some people can develop severe complications, including pneumonia and exacerbation of underlying lung and heart problems. People can contract influenza at any age, but those at highest risk of complications include the very young, those over age 65, people with underlying immune dysfunction (including HIV infection), people of any age with certain chronic medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease), pregnant women, and the obese.
It is important for some patients, especially those at higher risk of complications, to seek medical care at the onset of symptoms for influenza. In addition to general supportive care, antiviral medications are available- including Tamiflu and Relenza, which may shorten the duration of illness, and may lower the risk of complications for those at highest risk. Benefit is greatest if started within 48 hours, so if you think you have Influenza, please call our office or your PCP promptly.
Current guidelines from the CDC recommend vaccination for influenza to everyone over 6 months, with rare exception (such as certain allergies). Vaccination to prevent influenza is particularly important for people who are at high risk for serious complications from influenza. While theefficacy of the influenza vaccine varies year by year, and it is too early to tell how effective the current vaccine will be for 2019-2020, the risks of side effects are minimal, and even if vaccination doesn’t not fully prevent illness, it may attenuate the severity, which is also be extremely helpful.
At Lakeshore Infectious Disease we strongly urge vaccination of our patients for influenza. The vaccine is very safe and is indicated in almost all our patients. There are several different types of influenza vaccine: trivalent ( covering 2 strains of Influenza A and 1 of influenza B), high dose vaccine ( approved for those over age 65, and having a higher dose of the trivalent vaccine), and quadrivalent vaccine (covering 2 strains of Influenza A and 2 of influenza B). We recommend any of the approved formulations, but prefer either the quadrivalent vaccine or the high dose vaccine for our patients. We stock the quadrivalent and high dose vaccines in our office. Please feel free to ask any of our doctors or medical assistants if you have questions or have not yet been vaccinated for influenza.
CDC website : http://www.cdc.gov/flu/
Influenza Basics: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/index.htm
Influenza antiviral Medication: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/professionals/antivirals/summary-clinicians.htm
Influenza Vaccination: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/vaccine/index.htm
Role of antivirals: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/antivirals/index.htm
Weekly surveillance and Influenza activity: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly
At this time, influenza activity remains low, and so far strains seem well matched to the available vaccines. We will continue to keep close watch as the season proceeds.