Annual seasonal influenza epidemics of variable severity result in significant morbidity and mortality in the United States (U.S.) and worldwide. In temperate climate countries, including the U.S., influenza activity peaks during the winter months. Annual influenza vaccination is recommended for all persons in the U.S. aged 6 months and older, and among those at increased risk for influenza-related complications in other parts of the world (e.g. young children, elderly). Observational studies have reported effectiveness of influenza vaccination to reduce the risks of severe disease requiring hospitalization, intensive care unit admission, and death. A diagnosis of influenza should be considered in critically ill patients admitted with complications such as exacerbation of underlying chronic comorbidities, community-acquired pneumonia, and respiratory failure during influenza season. Molecular tests are recommended for influenza testing of respiratory specimens in hospitalized patients. Antigen detection assays are not recommended in critically ill patients because of lower sensitivity; negative results of these tests should not be used to make clinical decisions, and respiratory specimens should be tested for influenza by molecular assays. Because critically ill patients with lower respiratory tract disease may have cleared influenza virus in the upper respiratory tract, but have prolonged influenza viral replication in the lower respiratory tract, an endotracheal aspirate (preferentially) or bronchoalveolar lavage fluid specimen (if collected for other diagnostic purposes) should be tested by molecular assay for detection of influenza viruses.Observational studies have reported that antiviral treatment of critically ill adult influenza patients with a neuraminidase inhibitor is associated with survival benefit. Since earlier initiation of antiviral treatment is associated with the greatest clinical benefit, standard-dose oseltamivir (75 mg twice daily in adults) for enteric administration is recommended as soon as possible as it is well absorbed in critically ill patients. Based upon observational data that suggest harms, adjunctive corticosteroid treatment is currently not recommended for children or adults hospitalized with influenza, including critically ill patients, unless clinically indicated for another reason, such as treatment of asthma or COPD exacerbation, or septic shock. A number of pharmaceutical agents are in development for treatment of severe influenza.
Keywords: Antiviral treatment; Influenza; Influenza testing; Influenza vaccination.