Treatment Basics: Antivirals
Public health officials advise the public to not stockpile Tamiflu at home. But when New Scientist magazine asked 60 public health officials, epidemiologists and flu researchers in August 2009 about their personal preparations for the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic, it turned out that half of them were concerned enough about a potentially more severe wave of the disease to stockpile Tamiflu—one of the two recommended drugs to treat 2009 H1N1 flu symptoms.
Similarly, concern about H5N1 avian flu is presumed to be the reason for increased prescriptions of Tamiflu and other antivirals used to treat influenza in recent years.
These two cases draw attention to a serious influenza treatment dilemma: The more we use available drugs, the less effective they become. Several influenza strains have already built resistance to some of the drugs used to treat infected people. Contributing to this problem is both the overprescription of drugs as well as the improper use of drugs by people who are not very sick but take antivirals because they are frightened.
This page provides a quick introduction to antivirals, how they work, how they are currently used and what new treatments are being explored. The information is designed to help journalists raise important questions with officials and public health experts.
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