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Clinical Crossroads
Clinician's Corner
August 11, 2010

A 29-Year-Old Woman With Flu-like Symptoms: Review of Influenza Diagnosis and Treatment

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliation: Dr Barry is Director of the Infectious Disease Bureau, Boston Public Health Commission, Boston, Massachusetts.

JAMA. 2010;304(6):671-678. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.907

Peaks of seasonal influenza activity occur annually in many countries, resulting in significant morbidity and mortality. Using the case of Ms R, a 29-year-old woman who presented with acute onset of respiratory symptoms and was evaluated for influenza, considerations regarding symptoms and signs, evaluation, treatment, and prevention of influenza are discussed. Symptoms of influenza can be similar to those of other respiratory viruses, making diagnosis challenging. Laboratory testing should be reserved for patients who are seriously ill or for whom test results may affect management or have public health implications. For most cases of influenza, treatment is supportive and specific antiviral medication is not needed. Annual vaccination is the most effective way to prevent infection. Educating patients on practical steps to reduce the spread of influenza in the community is critical.