Shantanu Agrawal, MD: Early Flu Diagnosis and Antiviral Treatments


In the December 2021 episode of Lungcast, ALA Chief Medical Officer Al Rizzo sat down with Dr. Shantanu Agrawal, Chief Health Officer of Anthem, Inc., to discuss the potential of a “twindemic” consisting of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as well as a potentially cumbersome flu season.

Similar to COVID-19, vaccinations for the flu are the first line of defense against infection. However, interventions such as antivirals can be used once a patient is infected with the flu, and function similarly to some monoclonal antibodies for COVID-19 infections.

These influenza treatments work best, however, when paired with an early diagnosis of the flu.

“There's really important supportive treatments that we can provide very early on, especially when patients present whether it's outpatient or ER, wherever they're going,” Agrawal said. “Critically, there are some great antivirals for both viruses at this point.”

Currently, 2 antiviral options are being considered for approval by the Food and Drug Administration, with clinical trials showing positive results for each.

Agrawal added that patients who have been infected with the COVID-19 virus and wish to still receive a flu vaccination should do so, as prior infection with COVID-19 does not nullify the protective qualities of the flu vaccine.

However, Agrawal added that a full recovery from COVID-19 is recommended before receiving a flu shot.

“We want to make sure that when you get the flu shot, that you really can have a robust immune response to it,” he said. “But also there is this issue of not wanting to go to a public setting to get the flu vaccine if you're already currently sick, so it’s best to isolate, get better, and then get the vaccine.”

To hear more on the differences of flu and COVID-19 vaccinations and more, watch the video above. To hear the full episode of Lungcast with Dr. Agrawal, listen to the podcast below.

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