Feature Article: Flu Happens. Then What?
Published on in Parents PACK
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Published on in Parents PACK
Last influenza season was one of the most severe in recent history — with 172 pediatric deaths. Approximately 80 percent of those deaths occurred in children who did not receive a flu vaccine. While the influenza vaccine is not perfect, it’s important to remember that someone who received a flu vaccine and still gets the flu is likely to have a shorter or less severe illness compared with an unvaccinated person.
Unfortunately, because of low vaccination rates and the imperfect influenza vaccine, vaccinated people might still get the flu. So, what should you know if influenza enters your house?
Most people with the flu, particularly those who got an influenza vaccination, will have a mild illness and not require medical care or antiviral drugs. If you think you have the flu:
However, some people are at greater risk for complications and hospitalization when infected with influenza, including:
Those at increased risk should seek medical attention if they suspect infection with influenza. Early medical attention may provide an opportunity for treatment with antiviral medications or other specific advice depending on the individual’s situation.
Even though you may be caring for someone with influenza at home, it is important to know and recognize the emergency warning signs of influenza illness regardless of risk factors or vaccine status.
If you seek medical attention for influenza infection, a first step is usually confirming the influenza infection. This is done with a “rapid flu test,” which detects genetic material of the virus from a nasal swab within 15 minutes.
The test helps healthcare providers determine whether to administer antiviral treatments, such as Tamiflu®, Relenza® or Rapivab®. Infants as young as 14 days and pregnant women can take Tamiflu or its generic version. A newer antiviral medication called Xofluza®, approved by the Food and Drug Administration in late October, offers a single-dose option for people 12 years of age and older with flu symptoms for less than 48 hours. Generally, antivirals are most effective when taken within 48 hours of beginning symptoms. If administered properly, antivirals have the potential to:
The search for a universal influenza vaccine is ongoing. Because the virus mutates during and between seasons, it has been difficult to create a vaccine that is effective for several years.
One recent study in mice has shown promise, although it is too early to tell if it will work in people. Surprisingly, the study began with llamas. Researchers used the genes that coded for four different antibodies from llamas to create a combination antibody that was effective against at least 60 types of influenza, including both A and B types. Creating antibodies that are effective against different types of influenza has not been achieved previously. The vaccine candidate was administered as a nasal spray.
Other universal influenza vaccine approaches include:
In addition to these specific approaches, scientists continue to look at different ways to administer the vaccine, different dosing patterns, and various adjuvants that could also improve existing or new influenza vaccines.
If you are interested in finding out more about existing influenza vaccines or influenza disease, the VEC offers a variety of written materials and videos regarding influenza.
Materials to read
Categories: Parents PACK December 2018, Feature Article
Materials in this section are updated as new information and vaccines become available. The Vaccine Education Center staff regularly reviews materials for accuracy.
You should not consider the information in this site to be specific, professional medical advice for your personal health or for your family's personal health. You should not use it to replace any relationship with a physician or other qualified healthcare professional. For medical concerns, including decisions about vaccinations, medications and other treatments, you should always consult your physician or, in serious cases, seek immediate assistance from emergency personnel.