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Tamiflu "only for severely ill"

Only those who are severely ill with swine flu or have a high risk of complications should be treated with Tamiflu, according to the United Nations public health arm.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said that people with mild flu-like symptoms should not be given the drug and that antivirals such as Tamiflu should be reserved for groups most at risk, including pregnant women.

"WHO continues to recommend use of antivirals as treatment for people who are severely ill or are at risk of other health complications," said a statement from the agency.

WHO first gave the advice over the issue of oseltamivir, the generic name for the Tamiflu drug made by Swiss company Roche Holding, to patients over one year old on 21 May. The advice is now being reiterated as the H1N1 virus continues to spread.

British researchers had discouraged treating children with flu drugs as they may cause more harm than good and there is no evidence that they prevent complications. The researchers analysed data from past outbreaks of seasonal flu and found that widespread issue of antivirals among the under-12s have potentially harmful side-effects and few benefits.

Copyright © Press Association 2009

World Health Organisation

Your comments (terms and conditions apply):

"This seemed such an obvious thing to do right from the beginning, so I'm sure all the Tamiflu handouts have been more of a health public stunt to make people believe something is been done, when actually for most there is nothing to be done, except tell them to go home and go to bed" - Karen Nicoll, London

"I strongly agree with you that H1N1 is no doubt causing panic. In Mauritius the health service has segregated all patients coming to Emergency Unit by opening a flu department during this pandemic era. Tamiflu is being supplied only at hospital level for suspected cases. Standard precaution remains the only way to avoid spread of the disease. However, cases of patients reaching hospitals in late stage with severe lung infection are due to treatment in private hospitals or doctors or poor compliance with medications. The priority remains to continuously sensitise the public, avoid gatherings, movie houses, and keep at home if with flu-like symptoms and attend the area health center for wise and appropriate medical advice" - Parmanand Ballah, Mauritius

"The worst decision that has been made regarding swine flu is the cessation of swabbing suspected cases. This led to inappropriate supply of Tamiflu to those patients who may never have had swine flu diagnosed. The knock-on is that the flood gates opened and people have gone on to access Tamiflu unnecessarily. Now with all the worries regarding side-effects of Tamiflu I worry about what chaos is going to reign in the coming months. Flu clinics in the winter months are under staffed and overrun - things can only get worse" - Stephanie Zakrzewski, Lancashire

"I don't think the government should have spent vast sums of money handing out Tamiflu, given that the majority of people who have contracted swine flu have experienced mild symptoms. How are we, as a population, meant to build up any immunity if the message is, as has been up to now, that Tamiflu offers protection. What is wrong with us as a population that we cannot nurse ourselves, as we would previously have done, through a bout of flu with bed rest, plenty of fluids and two paracetamol four hourly for the first 72 hours then contacting our GPs if no improvement after that or if symptoms worsen? There have been cases of the "worried well" feigning symptoms to call handlers just to get Tamiflu and also of people buying it on the internet. The government and (in particular) the media have fanned the fires in this country and have to take responsibility for this. I will not be taking any flu vaccination, nor have I done in previous years.  The side-effects associated with Tamiflu are beginning to surface, who knows what a relatively untested vaccine could do? I'll take my chances thank you very much!" - Irene Macpherson, Greenock, Scotland