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Feature Article

Influenza: developments in its prevention and control

Alan W Hampson

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Abstract

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.

Key Points

  • 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.

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