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Tamiflu ‘cure’ is an excuse for careless spread

A young mother recently asked me to diagnose her son – she suspected he had caught swine flu at a recent family wedding.

Apparently there were four or five children present who were taking antivirals to treat their swine flu. The young mother was as appalled as I was at the selfishness of their parents in allowing them to attend.
Why did she not confront the parents? Well, obviously she did not want to make a scene at a joyous occasion. But you can imagine there would have been more than a little grumbling among the guests.

We now have a couple of antiviral drugs that are best used to limit the spread of infection – they are most effective when given to asymptomatic carers who will then have a much reduced risk of becoming infected themselves. But we are not using these drugs in prevention because we would need to treat all the population, and more than once. Not only would this be very costly but it would also rapidly outstrip our supplies.

Our patients are beginning to complain. They are reporting that they are no better after five days of antivirals and are asking for something else to treat their illness. But the fact that these drugs are minimally effective is little known and the public perception is quite the opposite – that these drugs are the ‘cure' just as antibiotics are for pneumonia.

Someone has sold the public the puppy of an ‘antibiotic for flu'. As a result, those who are selfish and thoughtless will share their illness with you.

From Dr Bernard Newgrosh, Bolton, Lancashire

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