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A leading virologist has advised GPs to prescribe antivirals to patients who could be at risk of flu because of the shortage of influenza vaccines.

Professor John Oxford, professor of virology at Queen Mary, University of London, said GPs should remember the antiviral oseltamivir (Tamiflu) was an option for patients who had not yet been vaccinated but had come into contact with someone with flu.

NICE has recommended oseltamivir should only be used in high-risk groups when flu is circulating in the community.

But Professor Oxford said that if flu starts early, before vaccine stocks have recovered, GPs may have to use oseltamivir to prevent or reduce the impact of flu.

A study presented at the InterScience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy in Washington last week showed that oseltamivir is effective against current human and avian flu strains, which are circulating in East Asia.

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