As you may have noticed, despite receiving the 2014-2015 influenza (flu) vaccine, many people have gotten the flu. It turns out that the vaccine contained inactivated (dead) virus that protected against 3 strains of influenza:
Some received the IIV4 that also protected against the B/Brisbane virus.
Apparently the strain of influenza A H3N2 of 2014-2015 is slightly different genetically than the influenza A H3N2 of 2013-2014, which was used in the vaccine. Therefore the influenza vaccine that we all received is able to provide some protection, but not total protection against this slightly new strain of influenza.
Symptoms of the flu
Symptoms of flu may include:
Symptoms usually appear 1 to 3 days after exposure. Although most people are ill for less than a week, some people have more serious complications that may require hospitalization.
What should I do if I think my child has the flu?
If your child has symptoms of the flu, call your primary health care provider immediately! Rapid diagnostic testing, which checks secretions in the throat for the influenza virus, is 50-70% accurate for diagnosing influenza (most providers will send a negative specimen for culture, just to be sure that there is no virus present). If the test is positive, starting an antiviral medication is recommended. Antiviral medication should be started as soon as possible in the course of the illness and continued for 5 days. It is best if this medication is started within 48 hours of the beginning of symptoms, but the treatment can still has some benefit if started later, especially for patients who are experiencing a longer or more complicated course.
Antiviral medications can lessen symptoms of the flu and shorten the time of illness by 1-2 days. They can also prevent serious complications of the flu, like pneumonia. There are 2 antiviral drugs recommended by the CDC this year: Tamiflu (Oseltamivir, pill or liquid) and Relenza (Zanamivir, inhaled powder, not recommended for patients with pulmonary problems). Antivirals may have side effects, including nausea, vomiting, dizziness, runny/stuffy nose, cough, diarrhea, headache, and some behavioral side effects; rare occurrences of neuropsychiatric events associated with Tamiflu.... Clinical judgment, on the basis of the patient’s disease severity and progression, age, underlying medical conditions, likelihood of influenza, and time since onset of symptoms, is important when making antiviral treatment decisions for high-risk outpatients.
The CDC recognizes that people living with neuromuscular disease are at higher risk for developing more serious complications from influenza.
For that reason, prophylaxis (antiviral medication) may be suggested for people with Duchenne who are living with household members who have been diagnosed with influenza. If it is felt to be appropriate to begin antiviral medication, antivirals should begin on the day of the household member’s diagnosis. Again, clinical judgment, on the basis of the patient’s disease severity and progression, age, underlying medical conditions, and likelihood of developing influenza, is important when making antiviral treatment decisions for higher-risk outpatients.
Missing Corticosteroid Doses
If you/your child is taking corticosteroids regularly (daily, every other day), it is very important that you not miss doses. If you/your child has missed 24 hours of corticosteroids, it is very important that you contact your primary care/neuromuscular provider for IV corticosteroid dosing. Missing 24 hours, or more, of corticosteroids can result in acute adrenal insufficiency, which can be a life threatening condition.
Besides antiviral medication, what other “over the counter” medications are safe to give a person with Duchenne?
You should always check with your primary health care provider regarding the safety and dosing of any medications. For children over 4 years, the following over the counter medications are generally safe for people with Duchenne to take:
Is there anything I can do to help my or my child’s coughing/breathing?
About a year ago, I was fortunate to co-blog with Drs. Daniel Sheehan (Pulmonology, Women and Children’s Hospital of Buffalo, NY) and Jonathan Finder (Pulmonology, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburg). This blog includes a handout to help patients and parents understand how and when to use a cough assist machine during a respiratory illness (download the handout here).
If you or your child needs to go to the emergency room, there are many tips in this blog that will make your visit a little smoother.
What else can we do to stay as healthy as possible?
Pearls of Care
Thank you to Drs. Fawn Leigh (Massachusetts General Hospital), Kathryn Wagner (The Kennedy Krieger Institute), Susan Apkon (Seattle Children’s Hospital), Linda Cripe (Nationwide Children’s Hospital), and Brenda Wong (Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center), as well as Dr. Rebecca Brady (Division of Infectious Diseases, Cincinnati Children's Hosptial Medical Center) for their assistance in developing recommendations.