Flu continues to affect our community at large. While many people think of "stomach flu" (which is usually caused by an unrelated virus) when they hear the word flu, influenza is more dominantly an upper respiratory infection, with coughing, runny nose, fevers, body aches, and generally feeling lousy. Complications of the flu can include a secondary pneumonia or dehydration, among other rare outcomes. Although this year's flu vaccine does not appear to have been as effective against all strains of flu as was hoped, it's still worthwhile to get vaccinated. The flu vaccine still offers good protection against several of the strains circulating this year and there is evidence that even if a vaccine recipient gets the flu, it is likely to be less severe than in an unvaccinated person. We currently have flu vaccine available for all patients 6 months old through teenagers.
Influenza patients in higher-risk groups--including patients under 2 years old, patients with underlying medical problems such as asthma or heart conditions, patients who live with someone who is at high risk from contracting the flu, such as a younger sibling, an older relative, or an immunocompromised person--may qualify for Tamiflu treatment. It is most effective if started within 48 hours of the beginning of symptoms. Tamiflu may reduce the severity and duration of influenza. Because Tamiflu can have some undesirable side effects, including nausea and vomiting, we tend not to prescribe it for lower-risk patients. However, the decision whether or not to use Tamiflu in an influenza patient will be made based on the overall circumstances of the illness and the patient's individual health. Children in low-risk groups, but with severe illness will generally be treated with tamiflu.