Because influenza activity this year has remained elevated and prominent, well past its usual season, the CDC is heavily advising the importance of early treatment.

Usually, influenza activity peaks between December and February in the United States, however, activity this year has remained elevated, late into February. Influenza A (H3N2) viruses have predominated this season – between Oct 1, 2017 and Jan 13, 2018, a total of 8,990 laboratory-confirmed influenza hospitalizations were reported, nationwide.

Widespread Influenza Activity and the Importance of Early Treatment

Because of this year’s expansive activity, diagnosis and treatment of possible influenza illness should not be delayed. Here are five key reminders being issued by the CDC Health Advisory:

  • Influenza should be high on the list of possible diagnoses for ill patients.
  • Suspected influenza should be treated as soon as possible with a neuraminidase inhibitor (antiviral).
  • Antiviral medications work best when treatment is started within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms.
  • Antiviral treatment should not wait for laboratory confirmation of influenza (read more).
  • Antiviral treatment initiated later than two days after illness onset can still prove to be beneficial for some patients.

Regardless of Influenza Vaccination or Atypical Presentation

guide has been created by the CDC to assist doctors with diagnosis if a patient has any signs or symptoms suggestive of influenza.

If a patient displays such symptoms, the CDC has also issued these reminders:

  • Initiation of antiviral treatment should not be delayed pending test results.
  • Maximum detection of influenza viruses are collected as close to illness onset as possible. See this algorithm for more information.
  • Influenza testing may help inform decisions on infection prevention and control practices. See Prevention Strategies for Seasonal Influenza in Health Care Settings for more information.

Geographic Spread of the Virus throughout the U.S.

  • Widespread in Puerto Rico and 49 states (Excluding Hawai’i).
  • Regional in Guam.
  • Local in the District of Columbia and Hawai’i.
  • Sporadic in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Although vaccination before influenza season is recommended, vaccines administered in December and later are likely to remain beneficial as our influenza season this year extends, and might not occur in certain communities until February or March.

Interested in learning more? Read 3 steps to treating influenza

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