Influenza: Diagnosis and Treatment

Am Fam Physician. 2019 Dec 15;100(12):751-758.


Influenza is an acute viral respiratory infection that causes significant morbidity and mortality worldwide. Three types of influenza cause disease in humans. Influenza A is the type most responsible for causing pandemics because of its high susceptibility to antigenic variation. Influenza is highly contagious, and the hallmark of infection is abrupt onset of fever, cough, chills or sweats, myalgias, and malaise. For most patients in the outpatient setting, the diagnosis is made clinically, and laboratory confirmation is not necessary. Laboratory testing may be useful in hospitalized patients with suspected influenza and in patients for whom a confirmed diagnosis will change treatment decisions. Rapid molecular assays are the preferred diagnostic tests because they can be done at the point of care, are highly accurate, and have fast results. Treatment with one of four approved anti-influenza drugs may be considered if the patient presents within 48 hours of symptom onset. The benefit of treatment is greatest when antiviral therapy is started within 24 hours of symptom onset. These drugs decrease the duration of illness by about 24 hours in otherwise healthy patients and may decrease the risk of serious complications. No anti-influenza drug has been proven superior. Annual influenza vaccination is recommended for all people six months and older who do not have contraindications.

MeSH terms

  • Antiviral Agents / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Influenza Vaccines / therapeutic use
  • Influenza, Human / complications
  • Influenza, Human / diagnosis*
  • Influenza, Human / epidemiology
  • Influenza, Human / therapy*


  • Antiviral Agents
  • Influenza Vaccines