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Anti-virals 'not recommended' for healthy patients with swine flu

By Nigel Praities

The World Health Organisation has recommended anti-viral drugs are not given to otherwise healthy people if they only have mild flu symptoms.

The recommendation goes against Department of Health advice that all patients with symptoms should be given Tamiflu.

In guidelines published on its website, the WHO says patients at-risk of complications – such as pregnant women, infants under 5 years, the elderly and those with underlying conditions – should receive antiviral treatment.

But patients who are otherwise healthy were likely to experience ‘typical influenza symptoms' and fully recover within a week, without any form of medical treatment.

‘Patients not in at risk groups who have uncomplicated illness due to confirmed or strongly suspected influenza virus infection need not be treated with antivirals,' it says.

'Patients in at risk groups, with uncomplicated illness due to influenza virus infection, should be treated with oseltamivir or zanamivir.'

If the condition of healthy patients with mild to moderate symptoms deteriorates, then antivirals are recommended by the WHO guidelines.

‘Clinicians, patients, and those providing home-based care need to be alert to warning signals that indicate progression to a more severe form of illness, and take urgent action, which should include treatment with oseltamivir.

‘In cases of severe or deteriorating illness, clinicians may consider using higher doses of oseltamivir, and for a longer duration, than is normally prescribed,' says the WHO document.

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