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Early Flu Cases Resisting Tamiflu

by The Kid's Doctor Staff


There is bad news in the fight against the flu this year. Government health officials say that one of the leading flu medications, Tamiflu, might not work against all cases of the disease this year. They say the most common flu bug going around right now appears to be overwhelmingly resistant to Tamiflu.

Health officials say they aren’t too worried about the news. They say it is still early in the flu season and it is not clear if the current flu strain will continue to dominate over the next several months. Also, health officials say not that many people take antiviral medications for the flu.

The good news is that the current flu vaccine seems to be well matched against the circulating bugs. Still cautions William Schaffner, a Vanderbilt University infectious disease specialist, doctors need to take the news about Tamiflu seriously.

“Each influenza seasons provides a bit of a surprise and we got our (surprise) a little early this year,” he added.

Doctors still say the best way to avoid the flu is to get a vaccination. According to an online survey done by the RAND Corporation in November, only 30 percent of U.S. adults have received a flu vaccine this year. Each year the flu causes 200,000 hospitalizations and 36,000 deaths annually. Young children, the elderly and people with chronic illnesses are considered at the greatest risk.

A spokesman for Tamiflu, which is manufactured by Roche, said it’s too early to draw strong conclusions about the drug’s usefulness this flu season. The basis of the CDC’s alert “is a small sample in a limited number of states, and Tamiflu is showing good activity against other circulating viruses,” said spokesman Terry Hurley.

Doctors cannot simply choose Relenza instead of Tamiflu when treating people ill with the flu. That treatment is not approved for children younger than 7 or people who have asthma or certain other breathing problems. GlaxoSmithKline PLC, which makes Relenza, said Friday it has enough to meet the demands of the current flu season.

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