Recent efforts to lessen the impact of influenza have followed three approaches: increased use of existing vaccines, development of new vaccines and specific antiviral therapy. The current status of these efforts is reviewed.
- Influenza continues to be a major public health problem, having its greatest impact on the elderly and on people with underlying medical conditions.
- Vaccines prepared from inactivated influenza virus have been available for more than half a century, but their use has only become widely accepted during the last 10 to 15 years.
- A recent Australian survey found that only 32% of people aged 40 to 64 years who were at risk of complications of influenza were vaccinated annually.
- Clinical diagnosis of influenza is difficult due to the variability of symptoms and clinical similarity of other infections such as that due to respiratory syncytial virus.
- Two new drugs, zanamivir and oseltamivir, have been shown to be beneficial in the treatment of influenza if administered early in the course of the infection.