By: Dr. Lou Romig
The good news for this year’s flu season is it’s much milder than last year. That’s because the predominant Flu A strain is H1N1, as opposed to last year’s H3N2, which is notorious for being more severe. H1N1 is also much more preventable with the flu vaccine than H3N2. The flu vaccine is significantly more effective this year than in the last five years, with vaccine efficacy rates quoted as high as 70 percent this season. Studies have suggested that this year’s flu vaccine is effective for as many as 90 percent of children from one to eight years of age.
Because the flu is expected to be milder this year, the CDC is focused on using antiviral drugs (Tamiflu) to treat people at increased risk for complications, such as children who are younger than two years, kids with chronic diseases like asthma or epilepsy, and children with compromised immune systems. Tamiflu is considered an elective treatment this year for otherwise healthy children with the flu.
There is a new drug on the market called Xofluza, which is a single-dose treatment for influenza. Xofluza is not approved for children under twelve years of age and is only available in pill form, so many children cannot take it. Recent studies have shown that several flu virus strains are resistant to Xofluza, so its effectiveness is still unknown.
Remember—it’s not too late to get vaccinated! The CDC says we have not yet reached peak flu season. We usually being to see the Flu B strain toward the end of flu season. Patients who have had Flu A this season can still get Flu B, so you’ll want to get your flu shot if you haven’t already.