The flu season isn’t even half over and it’s already proving to be deadlier compared to previous outbreaks. the reported number of deaths are increasing by the day. The latest count 26 children has died from influenza and diseases related to it. It has also spread to 46 states.
While the rate of infection is starting to decline in some parts of the country, the disease is just beginning to rise in others.
Tom Frieden, director of the CDC, in a press conference last Friday, called for massive use of antiviral medicines in place of the present vaccine which proves to be ineffective against the dominant virus H3N1. He said that the virus is “a nastier flu virus than other flu viruses, and it therefore requires aggressive treatment”.
“Antiviral flu medications save lives but they’re unfortunately underutilized,” said Frieden. “If you have influenza and get the medicine early you may not need to go to the hospital.”
The drugs Tamiflu and Relenza can help reduce the ability of the flu virus to reproduce and therefore limit its ability to spread and infect more people. According to several research studies, the drugs are very useful in reducing the intensity of the symptoms and in cutting short the life span of the virus. The CDC says that these drugs are found to be effective in fighting all strains of the flu.
There are however side effects attributed to the drugs such as headaches, nausea and vomiting but most patients can tolerate them without any difficulty.
Last December 19, another drug, Rapivab, was approved by the U.S. Food Drug Administration. This is the third alternative which patients can use in treating the virus and reduce the duration of the illness.
Frieden said that it’s very unfortunate many people are not aware that these drugs are effective. “The consumer research we’ve done shows that most people don’t know there are drugs to treat the flu. Clinicians may not be aware of the CDC guidance or there’s a perception that they don’t work.”
Frieden continued that some patients may find it difficult looking for these drugs because of the high demand. “To get antiviral medication you may have to call around to more than one pharmacy,” he said. The CDC gave its assurance that the drug is available all over the country and anyone who wants to get one will be able to obtain it.
The antiviral drugs are highly recommended by the CDC for patients who are currently admitted in the hospitals with a confirmed case of influenza. People who are suffering from other serious health conditions should take the medicines to avoid any complications. Children below 2 years old and people who are above 65 years old are urged to use them specially.
(The drugs are expensive and some patients may have second thoughts in buying them. However Frieden explains that they are the best options available at present. “The copays for prescriptions are far less than the copays for hospitals and time off from work,” he said.