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Just in time for flu season, FDA approves new treatment

There’s a new tool to fight the flu this year.

The new medication, Xofluza, will be available across the U.S. in the coming weeks. It’ll be an alternative to Tamiflu which faced a nationwide shortage across the U.S. last flu season, including in San Luis Obispo County. It was one of the most devastating flu seasons in nearly four decades with 80,000 deaths.

“It hit people really hard,” said Dr. Penny Borenstein, San Luis Obispo County Public Health Officer.

This new advancement in fighting the winter-time illness is being praised by health professionals.

“This is the first new medication for the flu virus in 20 years, so it is a really big event,” Dr. Borenstein said.

It was just approved by the FDA.

“It’s pretty exciting because it’s giving an option to Tamiflu,” said Dr. Rene Bravo, pediatrician.

Like Tamiflu, it aims to shorten the time patients feel sick.

“I gave more Tamiflu out last year than in the previous ten years because the flu season was so rugged last year,” Dr. Bravo explained.

In order to work, Xofluza needs to be taken within 48 hours of developing symptoms. However, it requires only one dose.

“That’s a whole lot easier than twice a day for five days. If you’re a busy parent and your child is sick, you’re going to want that one, one-time medication,” Dr. Bravo added.

He says a limiting factor is that it’s for people who are 12 or older.

“Tamiflu doesn’t work with everyone and what’s nice about this medication is that it has a different mechanism so it’s hitting a different part of the organism, so perhaps in some people, it may be more effective,” Dr. Borenstein said.

Similar to Tamiflu, the new weapon does not replace the flu shot. It’s just a way to treat the flu.

“You can not get sick from the flu shot. It is not a live virus so it does not cause the flu and for people who are concerned that they got the flu anyway, they most likely got a much less severe case of the flu and it can actually be the difference between life and death,” Dr. Borenstein concluded.

The medicine will cost $150 but may be available to some patients with insurance for $30.

There has already been a flu-related death in Florida this year.

Flu season technically starts on November 1. If you still need a flu shot, you can get one for free on Thursday during our Season of Hope live shot. We’ll be at Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center in San Luis Obispo from 5 to 7 p.m.

The first 50 people who stop by and donate a food or toy item during that time will receive a free flu shot.

Alexa Bertola

Alexa Bertola

Alexa Bertola has been a Multimedia Journalist at KSBY for more than two years. She's a general assignment reporter. Story idea? Email her: abertola@ksby.com
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