Current Influenza Situation
US influenza activity has begun to decrease, although Influenza activity is expected to continue for several more weeks. To date, state health departments have reported 119 children have died from influenza this season. See the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) article "Flu Activity Continues to Slow, But 5 More Children Die".
Availability of Antiviral Medications for Treatment of Influenza
Given current high influenza activity, clinicians should consider influenza as a likely diagnosis in patients with fever, cough and other respiratory symptoms, regardless of their age and whether or not they have received a flu vaccine this season. Persons of any age who are hospitalized, particularly with severe or progressive illness, and all high-risk patients with suspected or lab-confirmed influenza should be treated as soon as possible with antiviral medications. Children younger than 5 years of age, but especially those younger than 2 years of age, adults over 65 years of age, pregnant women, and anyone with certain underlying medical conditions, are at high risk for serious influenza complications.
Note that some manufacturers are reporting delays in filling influenza antiviral medication orders. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has an Antiviral Drug Supply Web page that is updated regularly. Also see the CDC Web page, Influenza Antiviral Medications: Summary for Clinicians.
Vaccine Effectiveness Update
Interim influenza vaccine effectiveness is estimated to be 36% overall this season with the highest effectiveness (59%) for young children 6 months through 8 years of age, according to interim estimates from a CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) on February 16, 2018.
It is not too late to get your flu shot. The AAP and the CDC continue to encourage everyone aged 6 months and older to be vaccinated. Vaccination will still prevent influenza illness, including hospitalizations and deaths this season. See the AAP News article, "CDC: Flu Vaccine 36% Effective, Highest for Young Children".
Archived Influenza Presentations for Clinicians
In February 2018, the CDC conducted a webinar titled, "Update on the 2017-2018 Influenza Season for Clinicians". During this webinar, CDC influenza experts addressed clinical issues for influenza patients, including those with severe disease, and provided the latest updates on the 2017-2018 influenza season. The archived version of the webinar and presentation materials/resources can be viewed online.
In January 2018, the CDC held a Grand Rounds session titled, "Public Health Response to Severe Influenza". This session provided key information for public health professionals on how to reduce the spread of seasonal influenza in communities and how to adjust to spot shortages of antiviral drugs in some areas because of high influenza activity. The archived version of the Grand Rounds is available online.
In November 2017, the AAP collaborated with CDC to conduct a webinar titled "What's New for the 2017-2018 Flu Season: Recommendations for Children". During this webinar, subject matter experts from the AAP and CDC highlighted valuable information about this year's influenza season and discussed strategies primary care providers and medical subspecialists could use to improve influenza prevention and control in children. The archived version of the webinar, a transcript, and presentation materials/resources can be viewed online.
Influenza Prevention and Control – Strategies for Early Education and Childcare 2017-2018
Partnering with early education and child care programs or schools to encourage proper influenza prevention and control strategies for all children, staff, and caregivers is hugely beneficial. Consider sharing the free AAP online PediaLink course "Influenza Prevention and Control – Strategies for Early Education and Childcare 2017-2018" with staff and others who work in Head Start and other early education and child care programs. After completion of this course, participants will be able to recognize the signs and symptoms of influenza, explain how influenza is spread, describe national and AAP recommendations regarding influenza, discuss the role of caregivers and teachers in preventing and controlling the spread of influenza, and much more. The course is approved for 1.0 contact hour.
See the AAP Red Book Online Influenza Resource page, CDC FluView, or the CDC Digital Media Toolkit: 2017-18 Flu Season. Each "What's the Latest with the Flu" messages will be archived. Also see the AAP Seasonal Flu Collection.