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HIV / AIDS Patient Information

What Adults with HIV Infection Should Know About Influenza

This document has been updated in accordance with the CDC Recommendations for the Amount of Time Persons with Influenza-Like Illness Should be Away from Others. This document provides interim guidance and will be updated as needed.

Are people with HIV/AIDS at greater risk than other people of infection with influenza?

In the past, people with HIV/AIDS have not appeared to be at any greater risk than the general population for infection with routine seasonal influenza. However, HIV-infected adults and adolescents, and especially persons with low CD4 cell counts or AIDS, can experience more severe complications of seasonal influenza.

What can people with HIV/AIDS do to protect themselves from influenza?

HIV-infected patients should take precautions to protect themselves from influenza.

  • Wash your hands often (or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer* if soap and water aren’t available)
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with your hands—germs spread this way 
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people
  • Review CDC’s interim recommendations for facemask and respirator use

HIV-infected persons should maintain a healthy lifestyle; eat right, get enough sleep, and reduce stress as much as possible. Staying healthy reduces your risk of getting infected by influenza and other infections. Staying health also helps your immune system fight off a flu infection should it occur.

If you are currently taking antiretrovirals or antimicrobial prophylaxis against opportunistic infections you should adhere to your prescribed treatment and follow the advice of your healthcare provider in order to maximize the health of your immune system.

What are the signs & symptoms of influenza?

Signs and symptoms of infection with seasonal influenza are fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headache, body aches (muscle aches or joint pain), chills and fatigue.

What should people with HIV/AIDS do if they think they may have influenza?

Contact your healthcare provider and follow his or her instructions. He or she will determine if laboratory testing or treatment is needed.

If you are sick, stay home and keep away from others as much as possible. This is to keep from making others sick. If you have the flu, you should stay at home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.)

If you need to go to a doctor’s office, to an emergency room, or to any other healthcare facility to be evaluated, cover your mouth and nose with a facemask if a facemask is available and tolerable, or cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.

When should people with HIV/AIDS be prescribed antiviral medications for the prevention (also called "chemoprophylaxis") of the flu?

HIV-infected adults and adolescents who are close contacts of persons with the flu should receive antiviral chemoprophylaxis.

Are the medicines used to treat & prevent infection with the flu virus safe for people with HIV/AIDS?

There is not a lot of information on the interaction between anti-flu medications and HIV antiretrovirals. No adverse effects have been reported among HIV-infected adults and adolescents who received oseltamivir or zanamivir. There are no known major drug interactions between oseltamivir or zanamivir with currently available antiretroviral medications used to treat HIV infection. If you are prescribed oseltamivir or zanamivir and think you might be having a reaction to the drug, contact your health care provider. Healthcare providers should observe patients for possible adverse drug reactions to anti-influenza agents, especially patients with neurologic problems or decreased kidney function.

How else should people with HIV/AIDS prepare?

Consult your doctor and make sure all your vaccinations are up-to-date, including vaccination against seasonal influenza and vaccination against bacterial pneumonia caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae. Bacterial pneumonia from Streptococcus pneumoniae can be a problem for people with HIV/AIDS and can also cause complications for people who have the flu. The vaccine against Streptococcus pneumoniae is different than the vaccine from the influenza vaccine.

Follow local public health advice regarding school closures, avoiding crowds and other social distancing measures based on illness in specific communities.

If you haven’t developed a family emergency plan yet, consider developing one now as a precaution. In particular, make sure to keep your antiretroviral prescriptions and other prescriptions filled and up-to-date and to take all of your antiretrovirals as prescribed.

Last UpdateJune 23, 2011
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