In addition, approximately two-thirds of H3N2 viruses that have been tested at Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are antigenically or genetically different from the H3N2 vaccine virus. This difference suggests that vaccine effectiveness may be reduced this season. High hospitalization rates are being observed similar to what was seen during the 2012-2013 influenza season.
Hospitalization rates are especially high among people 65 years and older. In this context, the use of influenza antiviral drugs as an adjunct to vaccination becomes even more important than usual in protecting people from influenza. Antiviral medications are effective in treating influenza and reducing complications.
Antivirals are available and recommended, but evidence from the current and previous influenza seasons suggests that they are severely underutilized.
This CDC Health Update reminded clinicians that influenza should be high on their list of possible diagnoses for ill patients, because influenza activity is elevated nationwide, and to advise clinicians that all hospitalized patients and all high-risk patients, either hospitalized or outpatient with suspected influenza should be treated as soon as possible with one of three available influenza antiviral medications. This should be done without waiting for confirmatory influenza testing.
While antiviral drugs work best when given early, therapeutic benefit has been observed even when treatment is initiated later.