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New drug claims to kill the flu in 24 hours

Japan’s health ministry has approved a drug that researchers say can kill the influenza virus in 24 hours.

» RELATED: Flu hospitalizations in metro Atlanta reach record high

That’s according to the Wall Street Journal, which reported that a single dose of the drug Xofluza was quicker at eliminating the virus than any other available treatment, including Roche AG’s Tamiflu.

Created by Shinogi & Co., a 140-year-old global pharmaceutical company based in Osaka, Japan, Xofluza is said to be three times as fast as Tamiflu when it comes to eliminating the virus, but both drugs take about the same time to entirely relieve flu symptoms.

» RELATED: Do you have the flu? 17 things to know about flu symptoms, flu shot side effects and more

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Killing the virus early, however, reduces the flu’s contagious effects. 

A company spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal that the national insurer has yet to set a price, so the pill may not be locally available until May.

As for the United States, Shinogi plans to file for approval later this year, but doesn’t expect a final decision before 2019. However, Roche AG, the Swiss company behind Tamiflu, has acquired the license to sell Xofluza overseas, including in the U.S., the Journal reported.

» RELATED: How does the flu kill healthy people?

According to the latest report from  the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 97 American children have already died amid the worst flu season in a decade. 

The cumulative rate of flu-related hospitalizations rose to 74.5 people out of every 100,000 in the seventh week of 2018 from nearly 68 out of every 100,000 last week, the CDC estimated.

CDC acting director Dr. Anne Schuchat, told reporters that increasingly high hospitalization rates were likely an indicator of high death rates to come. “The people who are likely to die may already be in the hospital,” Schuchat said.

Despite the vaccine’s 36 percent effectiveness, officials continue to urge those who have not yet been vaccinated to get flu shots. For children ages nine and younger, the vaccine still offers much greater protection, reducing the risk of a child becoming so sick that he or she will need to see a doctor by more than half.

Even with partial protection, those who receive the vaccine can reduce the severity of illness, doctors say.

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