PSA about Tamiflu and the Flu
by dulac89 (2013-01-02 11:59:37)
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There are some nasty flu strains going around, and at much higher levels much earlier than last year. The good news is that if you received this year's flu vaccine, you should have pretty good protection, as the most severe forms seem to be an Influenza A (H3N2) and Influenza B, covered by the vaccine. You may still get sick, but it won't be as bad as it could have been. Good old H1N1 is still out there too, which is the third component of the vaccine. So some PSA points:

1. If you haven't had the flu vaccine yet, it's not too late to get it. Even if you already had "the Flu" you likely only had one strain, and there are others floating around.
2. Influenza Medication is not like an antibiotic...it doesn't "kill" the vaccine. It slows the spread through the body, giving your own immune system time to catch up. If you're healthy, since it's a virus, your body will fight off the infection, just not as quickly.
3. Because they don't kill the virus, antivirals are generally worthless after 48 hours. If you've had symptoms for more than 48 hours, the virus has likely already spread enough that a medication to block its spread won't matter.
4. Of the few medications commonly used to treat the Flu, 2 have are now pretty worthless because of widespread resistance (amantadine and rimantidine). Influenza Viruses have already shown the ability to develop resistance against the others (Tamiflu, Zanamivir, and the other neuraminidase inhibitors), however right now activity is still pretty good.
5. Because there aren't many flu treatment medications that work, and the Flu Virus can and has developed resistance, use of Tamiflu should be limited to high risk patients with weaker immune systems: children younger than two years old, adults over 65, pregnant women, people with certain chronic medical or immunosuppressive conditions and adults under 19 on long-term aspirin therapy. Also if it appears like you're developing pneumonia like symptoms or if you are sick enough to require hospitalization, you should be treated also.

Why do I say this? The best way to "treat" the flu is to not get it by getting your flu vaccine. If you didn't get your vaccine, and are otherwise healthy and don't meet the treatment criteria, if it's outside 48 hours Tamiflu isn't going to make much difference. All you're going to do is expose more virus to more Tamiflu, which then accelerates the development of resistance. Bottom line, if everyone who had the flu were to get Tamiflu, most of whom would have gotten better regardless, after one or two flu seasons there would be NO medications that would work against the flu. This would mean those with weakened immune systems would be up a creek, and things would get really ugly fast.

So if you haven't, get your vaccine. If you have the flu, and are otherwise healthy, Tamiflu isn't going to make much difference, and by not taking it unless you need it you are helping ensure it still works for those who do need it to live.



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