This season is shaping up to be one of the worst flu seasons in history. Flu vaccines have not been nearly as effective this year due to a mutation in the most common strain of the flu. This has led many people to forego getting the vaccine. Since fewer people are getting vaccinated, the illness is reaching epidemic proportions. This can create serious complications for patients with respiratory ailments like asthma. Here, we’ll explain why you should be concerned with the flu epidemic if you have asthma.
Doctors stress that while the current vaccine is not as effective as in prior years, it does still offer about 50% protection against the flu. Half protection is certainly better than none. In addition, doctors are prescribing antiviral medications, such as Tamiflu, more frequently. This is being done in hopes that it might keep the virus somewhat at bay.
The current strain of the flu, which has undergone sudden mutation, is most dangerous to the elderly and the very young, as well as to people who currently have breathing conditions like asthma. This makes it more important to use other methods like antivirals to keep it at bay. The virus is currently active in all but four states, and we are about 2/3 of the way through the season.
Antivirals, if prescribed quickly, can significantly lessen the severity of an attack. The CDC is pushing doctors to prescribe these medications for high risk patients without even waiting for test results. While about 20% of high-risk patients are currently getting the drugs, officials want the rates to be higher.
The flu carries serious respiratory issues with it. Those who are not treated can end up with serious infections like bronchitis or even pneumonia. For asthma patients who already have difficulty breathing, such conditions can create major complications. People affected with asthma have a much more difficult time than others dealing with lung-related illnesses, so the current epidemic should be particularly worrisome for such patients.
Because of the severity of this year’s season it is more important than ever for those at high risk to seek vaccination and treatment. The season is nominally coming to a close soon, but still, anyone who has not yet been vaccinated should not consider themselves out of the woods. Rather, they should consider that they have been fortunate thus far. Seeking vaccination is a good idea to help keep the elderly, the young, and asthmatics healthy.
Additionally, if anyone in a population with elevated risk factors begins to experience symptoms of the flu, they should seek medical attention immediately. Getting under a doctor’s care and having antivirals can mean the difference between health and hospitalization and can even save lives.
What do you think about the push for more antiviral prescriptions? Is it a good idea, or overly cautious? We would like to hear your thoughts. Leave us a message below.