February 2, 2018 – Some important updates about flu season this year:
There is a lot of influenza out there
I am tired of writing about flu. I am sure you are tired of reading about.
But – for visual learners – I present the graph above that shows new cases of flu over time for the past 3 flu seasons. This year’s flu season is the brightly colored red line that stops at the week ending 1/27. You can see there are more cases of flu than at the same time compared to the previous two years.
What this means to me is we likely haven’t reached this flu season’s peak yet.
What is being reported nationally and statewide also fits what we are seeing at RCAM
Here is a snapshot of the rise in positive flu tests in our Duraleigh office so far for this flu season:
With lots of flu cases we are starting to see some shortages
- We have already run out of privately-supplied flu vaccine for patients 3 years old and up (our current supply is described here). We are hearing reports of pharmacies running low with flu vaccine as well. Here are other places you can call to check on their availability of flu vaccine. At this late juncture in the flu season, it is pretty unlikely that more flu vaccine will become available. (NOTE: put it in your calendar for next year – flu vaccine is generally plentiful every October).
- We anticipate running out of tests for influenza. At this point in time, we are testing for flu only when necessary (a patient doesn’t have to be tested to be diagnosed with flu; at the end of the day, the doctor seeing you makes a clinical judgement).
- We anticipate shortages of Tamiflu – one antiviral medicine that can in some cases lighten the symptoms and / or duration of flu illness
A few things about Tamiflu
Tamiflu is essentially the only medicine (Tamiflu) that might help in the fight against flu (other than the flu vaccine – which again is plentiful in the fall). Compare that number to the choices we have for something like ear infections where we can choose from 6-8 different antibiotics.
Having just one option for flu sets up the potential for problems with supply as well as increases the likelihood of resistance.
Therefore, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has come out with recommendations for physicians regarding the use of Tamiflu.
In short, they recommend using Tamiflu only with patients who are at high risk for complications from the flu. High risk tends to mean the very young (under 2 years old), the very old and those with underlying conditions (like asthma or diabetes).
As pediatricians, we feel it is our responsibility to follow the CDC recommendations as closely as possible.