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Prescribing Tamiflu is the soft option for swine flu

I am worried about the amount of swine flu misinformation being circulated. The country seems to have assumed a collective state of panic with Tamiflu being dished out without consideration of diagnosis. The guidelines are unhelpful as they concentrate on symptoms shared by a host of other conditions.

In recent weeks I have seen a number of patients who were wrongly diagnosed with swine flu over the phone and given Tamiflu, the most glaring one a lady without tonsils, who had acquired a severe streptococcal throat infection with a high temperature and lethargy.

Instead of concentrating on side symptoms, we should remember that influenza is the illness, with the affected person usually suffering relatively few symptoms apart from high temperature, body aches and extreme fatigue – ‘too fatigued to pick up a £50 note in front of you'.

I fear we are dishing out millions of doses of Tamiflu to patients without H1N1. We know from research that Tamiflu is not very effective, but are virtually forced by guidelines to prescribe.

Our guiding principle should still be first, do no harm, and second, do good. A measured approach to swine flu is needed and our diagnostic skills are still required. It is easy to dish out Tamiflu, but much harder not to.

From Dr Martin Kittel, Bracknell, Berkshire

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