When to Test and Treat: Influenza
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/ Categories: WELLNESS, 2022

When to Test and Treat: Influenza

We are experiencing higher influenza levels in our community, and it is important that influenza is identified and treated early in high-risk patients.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers the following patients to be at greater risk for flu-related complications:

  • Patients under the age of 2
  • Pregnant patients
  • Those over the age of 65
  • Patients with asthma or COPD
  • Those with weakened immune systems
  • Patients with diabetes or liver, kidney, or heart conditions

Patients with any of these conditions should seek treatment and may be treated with an antiviral medication, called oseltamivir, if their symptoms started within the last 48 hours. The antiviral medication will prevent complications.

For those not at high risk, most influenza infections cause a mild illness with fever, headache, body aches, fatigue, cough, congestion, and sore throat.

  • Testing is not required, as a healthcare provider can reasonably make a diagnosis of influenza, particularly if community levels of influenza are high and you have the symptoms described above.
  • Currently, there are shortages in both the antiviral medication oseltamivir and influenza testing supplies. People who are at low risk of complications from the flu will be tested only in rare circumstances and at the discretion of your healthcare provider.
  • Infections of COVID-19 and influenza are very similar and can happen at the same time. Patients with respiratory symptoms should use an at-home rapid antigen test for COVID-19.
  • If you test positive COVID-19, follow the instructions for isolation as listed on the Vermont Department of Health website.
  • Those over 12 at higher risk for a severe case of COVID-19 can be treated with a different antiviral medication, Paxlovid.
  • If you suspect you have influenza, stay at home and away from others, rest, increase fluids, and try over-the-counter fever-reducing medications, such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen. Most people with this illness will have mild symptoms and will not need medical care or antiviral medications. 
  • You can reduce your risk of influenza and the risk of those close to you by receiving the seasonal influenza vaccine and consistently washing hands properly.

Crystal Labbe-Hasty, PA, is a physician assistant at SVMC’s Respiratory Evaluation Center/ExpressCare in Bennington. The practice is part of Southwestern Vermont Medical Center and Southwestern Vermont Health Care. 

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