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CDC to clinicians: Antivirals are being underutilized this flu season


ATLANTA - Halfway through the 2014-15 flu season, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that antiviral medications are being underutilized. "If you get them early, they could keep you out of the hospital and might even save your life," CDC director Tom Frieden told reporters Friday. "There's a lot of flu out there now and there's more to come," he said. "Key flu indicators suggest that this year is shaping up to be a bad one, particularly for people 65 and older."


The CDC estimates that only 1-in-5 high-risk patients, who should be prescribed an antiviral this year, are actually getting an antiviral. 


The predominant flu bug this year is an H3N2 strain, which typically generates more significant seasons with more severe symptoms. "H3N2 is a nastier flu virus than the other flu viruses and years that have H3N2 predominance tend to have more hospitalizations, and sadly, more deaths," Frieden said. Currently, the hospitalization rate for seniors was up to 92 per 100,000 and rising. The hospitilazation peak for seniors in the last season when H3N2 was predominant was 183 per 100,000. 


"CDC has recommended the use of antiviral drugs as an adjunct to vaccination," Frieden said. "They're the only medicines that can specifically treat influenza illness, and in the context of an H3N2 predominant season with a less effective vaccine, treatment with anti-flu drugs is even more important than usual."


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