Dec. 19 (UPI) -- Pregnant women and the extremely obese, along with other groups, face a high risk for flu complications that include death, and should be tested this season, a study says.
New guidelines from the Infectious Diseases Society of America published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases Wednesday call for people to ditch the older rapid-influenza diagnostic tests, or RIDTs, which have given false positives in at least 30 percent test for patients with the flu.
Instead, the guidelines recommend that people in high-risk groups take a newer and "highly accurate" molecular test that deliver results in 15 to 60 minutes.
"Influenza can be serious, especially for the sizable group of people at high risk," Timothy M. Uyeki, co-chair of the guidelines committee and chief medical officer at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a news release. "Annual influenza vaccination is the best way to prevent influenza, but it is not 100 percent effective. Those at high risk need to be encouraged to seek medical care right away if they develop influenza symptoms during influenza season."
Anyone in a high-risk group who tests positive for the flu should get antiviral treatment if they show flu symptoms, officials say.
People with weakened immune systems, women who are pregnant and recently gave birth, children younger than age two, people with a body mass index of 40 or more and others are all considered high risk.
The CDC says pregnant women should get the flu shot and not the live attenuated influenza vaccine, or LAIV, also known as the nasal spray flu vaccine.
Also, the National Institutes of Health did a study in 2013 that linked obesity and flu hospitalizations.
Anyone who falls into that category and experiences flu complications should go to the hospital immediately, even without waiting for flu test results.
Nationally, 2.2 percent of outpatient visits to the hospital were due to flu in the first week of December, according to the CDC.
And so far this flu season, the CDC reported six pediatric deaths related to the flu. The CDC couldn't track the number of adults who died from the flu this season.
Physicians stress the importance of getting tested for the flu because patients with a positive diagnosis are more likely to receive antiviral medications.
"High-risk individuals who are hospitalized with flu complications are at an increased risk for serious bacterial infections and infectious diseases physicians' expertise is critical to ensuring they receive the best care," said Andrew T. Pavia, MD, IDSA co-chair of the guidelines committee. "ID doctors also can provide guidance when a patient who has the flu is not responding to antiviral treatment or is getting worse."
In mid-November, the number of children who received flu shots rose by nearly 7 percent over last year, while for adults the number increased by more than six percent, the CDC reported.
"We are always concerned about preparing for the next pandemic, but we also are focused on preventing and controlling seasonal influenza," Uyeki said. "While pandemics aren't predictable, we know that every year we're going to have seasonal influenza and we need to improve how we prevent and control it through influenza vaccination, better diagnosis and early antiviral treatment of patients."