Prevention and Control of Influenza, Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP)

Nicole M. Smith, PhD; Joseph S. Bresee, MD; David K. Shay, MD; Timothy M. Uyeki, MD; Nancy J. Cox, PhD; Raymond A. Strikas, MD


Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 2006;55(27):1-41. 

In This Article

Indications for Use of Antivirals When Susceptibility Exists

When administered within 2 days of illness onset to otherwise healthy adults, zanamivir and oseltamivir can reduce the duration of uncomplicated influenza A and B illness by approximately 1 day compared with placebo.[91,320,321,322,323,324,325,326,327,328,329,330,331,332,333,334] More clinical data are available concerning the efficacy of zanamivir and oseltamivir for treatment of influenza A virus infection than for treatment of influenza B virus infection.[324,335,336,337,338,339,340,341,342,343,344] However, in vitro data and studies of treatment among mice and ferrets,[345,346,347,348,349,350,351,352] in addition to clinical studies, have documented that zanamivir and oseltamivir have activity against influenza B viruses.[310,317,325,329,353,354]

Data are limited regarding the effectiveness of the antiviral agents in preventing serious influenza-related complications (e.g., bacterial or viral pneumonia or exacerbation of chronic diseases). Evidence for the effectiveness of these antiviral drugs is principally based on studies of patients with uncomplicated influenza.[355] Data are limited concerning the effectiveness of zanamivir and oseltamivir for treatment of influenza among persons at high risk for serious complications of influenza.[31,321,322,324,325,330,331,332,333,334,335,336,337,338] Among influenza virus infected participants in 10 clinical trials, the risk for pneumonia among those participants receiving oseltamivir was approximately 50% lower than among those persons receiving a placebo.[339] A similar significant reduction was also found for hospital admissions; a 50% reduction was observed in the small subset of high-risk participants, although this reduction was not statistically significant. Fewer studies of the efficacy of influenza antivirals have been conducted among pediatric populations.[295,322,328,329] One study of oseltamivir treatment documented a decreased incidence of otitis media among children.[323] Inadequate data exist regarding the safety and efficacy of any of the influenza antiviral drugs for use among children aged <1 year.[289]

Initiation of antiviral treatment within 2 days of illness onset is recommended. The recommended duration of treatment with either zanamivir or oseltamivir is 5 days.

Chemoprophylactic drugs are not a substitute for vaccination, although they are critical adjuncts in preventing and controlling influenza. In community studies of healthy adults, both oseltamivir and zanamivir are similarly effective in preventing febrile, laboratory-confirmed influenza illness (efficacy: zanamivir, 84%; oseltamivir, 82%).[324,340,356] Both antiviral agents also have been reported to prevent influenza illness among persons administered chemoprophylaxis after a household member had influenza diagnosed.[341,353,356] Experience with chemoprophylactic use of these agents in institutional settings or among patients with chronic medical conditions is limited in comparison with the adamantanes.[310,337,338,342,343,344] One 6-week study of oseltamivir chemoprophylaxis among nursing home residents reported a 92% reduction in influenza illness.[310,357] Use of zanamivir has not been reported to impair the immunologic response to influenza vaccine.[317,358] Data are not available regarding the efficacy of any of the four antiviral agents in preventing influenza among severely immunocompromised persons.

When determining the timing and duration for administering influenza antiviral medications for chemoprophylaxis, factors related to cost, compliance, and potential side effects should be considered. To be maximally effective as chemoprophylaxis, the drug must be taken each day for the duration of influenza activity in the community.

Persons at High Risk Who Are Vaccinated After Influenza Activity Has Begun. Persons at high risk for complications of influenza still can be vaccinated after an outbreak of influenza has begun in a community. However, development of antibodies in adults after vaccination takes approximately 2 weeks.[265,266] When influenza vaccine is administered while influenza viruses are circulating, chemoprophylaxis should be considered for persons at high risk during the time from vaccination until immunity has developed. Children aged <9 years who receive influenza vaccine for the first time can require 6 weeks of chemoprophylaxis (i.e., chemoprophylaxis for 4 weeks after the first dose of vaccine and an additional 2 weeks of chemoprophylaxis after the second dose).

Persons Who Provide Care to Those at High Risk. To reduce the spread of virus to persons at high risk during community or institutional outbreaks, chemoprophylaxis during peak influenza activity can be considered for unvaccinated persons who have frequent contact with persons at high risk. Persons with frequent contact include employees of hospitals, clinics, and chronic-care facilities; household members; visiting nurses; and volunteer workers. If an outbreak is caused by a strain of influenza that might not be covered by the vaccine, chemoprophylaxis should be considered for all such persons, regardless of their vaccination status.

Persons Who Have Immune Deficiencies. Chemoprophylaxis can be considered for persons at high risk who are expected to have an inadequate antibody response to influenza vaccine. This category includes persons infected with HIV, chiefly those with advanced HIV disease. No published data are available concerning possible efficacy of chemoprophylaxis among persons with HIV infection or interactions with other drugs used to manage HIV infection. Such patients should be monitored closely if chemoprophylaxis is administered.

Other Persons. Chemoprophylaxis throughout the influenza season or during peak influenza activity might be appropriate for persons at high risk who should not be vaccinated. Chemoprophylaxis also can be offered to persons who wish to avoid influenza illness. Health-care providers and patients should make this decision on an individual basis.

Using antiviral drugs for treatment and chemoprophylaxis of influenza is a key component of influenza outbreak control in institutions. In addition to antiviral medications, other outbreak-control measures include instituting droplet precautions and establishing cohorts of patients with confirmed or suspected influenza, reoffering influenza vaccinations to unvaccinated staff and patients, restricting staff movement between wards or buildings, and restricting contact between ill staff or visitors and patients[359,360,361] (see Additional Information Regarding Influenza Virus Infection Control Among Specific Populations).

The majority of published reports concerning use of antiviral agents to control influenza outbreaks in institutions are based on studies of influenza A outbreaks among nursing home populations that received amantadine or rimantadine.[335,362,363,364,365,366] Less information is available concerning use of neuraminidase inhibitors in influenza A or B institutional outbreaks.[337,338,344,357,367] When confirmed or suspected outbreaks of influenza occur in institutions that house persons at high risk, chemoprophylaxis should be started as early as possible to reduce the spread of the virus. In these situations, having preapproved orders from physicians or plans to obtain orders for antiviral medications on short notice can substantially expedite administration of antiviral medications.

When outbreaks occur in institutions, chemoprophylaxis should be administered to all residents, regardless of whether they received influenza vaccinations during the previous fall, and should continue for a minimum of 2 weeks. If surveillance indicates that new cases continue to occur, chemoprophylaxis should be continued until approximately 1 week after the end of the outbreak. The dosage for each resident should be determined individually. Chemoprophylaxis also can be offered to unvaccinated staff members who provide care to persons at high risk. Chemoprophylaxis should be considered for all employees, regardless of their vaccination status, if the outbreak is suspected to be caused by a strain of influenza virus that is not well-matched to the vaccine.

In addition to nursing homes, chemoprophylaxis also can be considered for controlling influenza outbreaks in other closed or semiclosed settings (e.g., dormitories or other settings in which persons live in close proximity).

To limit the potential transmission of drug-resistant virus during outbreaks in institutions, whether in chronic or acute-care settings or other closed settings, measures should be taken to reduce contact as much as possible between persons taking antiviral drugs for treatment and other persons, including those taking chemoprophylaxis (see Antiviral Drug-Resistant Strains of Influenza Virus).


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