SafetyShare® newsletter brought to you by the Premier Safety Institute®
January 15, 2015
Widespread flu continues; antivirals are effective
CDC issued a health advisory to remind clinicians and patients of the benefits of antiviral medications to treat influenza. This Safety Share is a
brief summary of this advisory. See the complete
CDC health advisory
that includes additional details about the approved antiviral recommendations and supply, lab diagnosis and patient education.
The CDC reports that there is widespread flu activity in most U.S. states. The most common circulating virus is influenza A (H3N2) and about two-thirds of
these H3N2 viruses are genetically different from those H3N2 viruses in the flu vaccine. This difference suggests that vaccine effectiveness may be reduced
this season. This particular virus in past flu seasons has been associated with more severe disease and deaths in older people and young children, and in
this flu season, high hospitalization rates are also being observed. As such, the CDC’s recommendation for the use of influenza antiviral drugs as an
adjunct to vaccination becomes even more important than usual in protecting people from serious complications. However these antiviral drugs are being
Clinicians – All hospitalized, severely ill, and high risk patients with flu should receive antivirals
The CDC continues to recommend vaccination as long as flu viruses are circulating. The use of antiviral medications1 to treat flu has been shown
to reduce symptoms, length of time of illness and severe outcomes. The CDC recommends that patients with suspected flu at high risk for serious
complications2 and those hospitalized should be treated as soon as possible with one of the three available flu antiviral medications1 without
waiting for confirmatory tests. While antiviral drugs work best when given early, there is still benefit even when treatment is initiated later.
Patients – Antiviral drugs are a treatment option for flu
Research shows that many patients are not aware that there are drugs to treat flu. Antiviral drugs are a treatment option if you have severe flu illness or
are at high risk for flu complications2 because of a severe illness or underlying medical condition. Antiviral drugs can mean the difference
between having a milder illness instead of a very serious illness that could result in a hospital stay.
Antibiotics are not effective against the flu
Antibiotics are not effective against the flu. Using antibiotics inappropriately can lead to antibiotic resistance and potential side effects of the drug.
Cover your cough – cough into your sleeve and wash hands often
Flu can be spread to others up to 6 feet away from coughing and sneezing. Practices that may help decrease the spread of influenza include covering your
mouth when you cough or sneeze. Use a tissue when you cough or sneeze and throw it away and then wash your hands. If a tissue is not handy, cough into your
sleeve. Also, stay home from work and school when ill and stay away from people who are sick. Finally, wash your hands often and if soap and water are not
available, use an alcohol-based hand rub. Consider conveniently placed alcohol-based hand rubs for frequent use during flu season.
1. Antiviral drugs – include oseltamivir, zanamivir and peramivir.
2. High-risk individuals – include children, adults over 65, pregnant or post-partum women, people with chronic conditions (e.g., asthma) or
immune suppression, and residents of nursing homes and chronic care facilities.