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Influenza (cont.)

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What is the prognosis (outlook) and complications for patients who get the flu?

In general, the majority (about 90%-95%) of people who get the disease feel terrible (see symptoms) but recover with no problems. People with suppressed immune systems historically have worse outcomes than uncompromised individuals; current data suggest that pregnant individuals, children under 2 years of age, young adults, and individuals with any immune compromise or debilitation are likely to have a worse prognosis. In most outbreaks, epidemics and pandemics, the mortality rates are highest in the older population (usually above 50 years old). Complications of any flu virus infection, although relatively rare, may resemble severe viral pneumonia or the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome caused by a coronavirus strain) outbreak in 2002-2003 in which the disease spread to about 10 countries with over 7,000 cases, over 700 deaths, and had a 10% mortality rate.

What is the bird (avian) flu?

The bird flu, also known as avian influenza and H5N1, is an infection caused by avian influenza A. Bird flu can infect many bird species, including domesticated birds such as chickens. In most cases, the disease is mild; however, some subtypes can be pathogenic and rapidly kill birds within 48 hours. Rarely, humans can be infected by these bird viruses. People who get infected with bird flu usually have direct contact with the infected birds or their waste products. Depending on the viral type, the infections can range from mild influenza to severe respiratory problems or death. Human infection with bird flu is rare but frequently fatal. More than half of those people infected (over 650 infected people) have died (current estimates of the mortality [death] rates in humans is about 60%). Fortunately, this virus does not seem to be easily passed from person to person. The major concern among scientists and physicians about bird flu is that it will change (mutate) its viral RNA enough to be easily transferred among people and produce a pandemic similar to the one of 1918. There have been several isolated instances where a person had been reported to get avian flu in 2010; the virus was detected in South Korea (three human cases), resulting in a quarantine of two farms, and in 2012, over 10,000 turkeys died in a H5N1 outbreak with no human infections recorded. Recent research suggests that some people may have had exposure to H5N1 in their past but had either mild or no symptoms.

In addition, researchers, in an effort to understand what makes an animal or bird flu become easily transmissible to humans, developed a bird flu strain that is likely easily transmitted from person to person. Although it exists only in research labs, there is controversy about both the synthesis and the scientific publication of how this potentially highly pathogenic strain was created.

Do antiviral agents protect people from the flu?

Vaccination is the primary method for control of influenza; however, antiviral agents have a role in the prevention and treatment of mainly influenza type A infection. Regardless, antiviral agents should not be considered as a substitute or alternative for vaccination. Most effectiveness of these drugs are reported to occur if the antivirals are given within the first 48 hours after infection; some researchers maintain there is little or no solid evidence these drugs can protect people from getting the flu so some controversies exist regarding these agents.

The CDC published the following concerning antiviral medications:

Antiviral medications with activity against influenza viruses are an important adjunct to influenza vaccine in the control of influenza.

  • Influenza antiviral prescription drugs can be used to treat influenza or to prevent influenza.
  • Oseltamivir and zanamivir are chemically related antiviral medications known as neuraminidase inhibitors that have activity against both influenza A and B viruses.

The following is the CDC recommended dosage for antiviral medications for the treatment of influenza (flu) for the 2014-2015 season:

Antiviral Medications Recommended for Treatment and Chemoprophylaxis of Influenza
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/23/2014

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Flu (Influenza) - Symptoms Question: Please describe your flu symptoms.
Flu (Influenza) - Side Effects Question: Did you experience any side effects with the flu vaccine?
Source: MedicineNet.com
http://www.medicinenet.com/influenza/article.htm

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