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For flu, it's wise to get meds fast
Pediatrician's office swamped with flu patients recently

Date published: 3/12/2006

IN THIS MONTH'S COLUMN, I want to include several different pediatric news items that I thought were interesting. First and foremost is the recent explosion of influenza cases in our area.

Our office has been inundated with flu patients in the last few weeks. It hit late this year, but hit hard. Virginia has had "widespread" flu activity for a month now, according to the Centers for Disease Control (check cdc.gov for current conditions).

The predominant strain of influenza circulating is resistant to the older anti-flu medications, amantadine and rimantadine. However, there has not been any reported resistance to Tamiflu (Oseltamivir) or Relenza (zanamivir).

Tamiflu is an oral medication, FDA-approved for age 1 and above, for both treatment and prevention of influenza. When started in the first 48 hours of illness and continued for five days, it can reduce the length and severity of illness. When started after exposure but before symptoms begin, and taken for 10 days, it can prevent illness entirely.

Relenza, which is FDA-approved for age 7 and up, is an inhaled medication, so it is more difficult to use and not recommended for people with respiratory illnesses like asthma. Also, it cannot be used as a preventative medication.

Many physicians can test for influenza in their offices, and then start the medication right away. If your child has symptoms of influenza, including a rather sudden onset of fever, achiness, cough, sore throat, runny nose/congestion, headache and fatigue, bring them in to be tested. Getting them on Tamiflu for treatment--and the rest of the family on it for prevention--can make a huge difference in how much school and work everybody misses.

Remember, influenza is a respiratory illness, and different from what many of us call "the flu" (vomiting and diarrhea). A major cause of vomiting and diarrhea, rotavirus, is also circulating right now, and I'll touch on that below when I discuss vaccines for both the flu and rotavirus.

Also remember that even people who have had the flu shot can catch the flu, although they usually have milder cases of shorter duration.

Vaccine news

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