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Healthy patients don't need flu drugs - WHO

Monday August 24th, 2009

International guidelines released at the weekend seemed to contradict the British policy of handing out anti-viral drugs to all flu patients.

The World Health Organisation advice suggests drugs should only be given to high-risk patients, including pregnant women, or those who fall seriously ill.

Anti-viral drugs can prevent hospital admission and pneumonia, WHO experts say.

They report: "Healthy patients with uncomplicated illness need not be treated with antivirals."

The WHO analysis warns that healthy patients can, however, succumb rapidly to the virus. It says 40 per cent of the world's most severe cases involve previously healthy adults and children, mostly under the age of 50.

It says these usually deteriorate after about five days, developing viral pneumonia and multiple organ failure. It says the drug oseltamivir should be used for treatment.

The WHO experts say antivirals should be given to children with severe illness and all children under the age of five.

The analysis suggests that the swine flu virus, H1N1, is increasingly the dominant strain where flu outbreaks are reported - and that doctors can assume that a flu-like illness is caused by the virus.

"Clinicians, patients, and those providing home-based care need to be alert to danger signs that can signal progression to more severe disease," the experts add.

Tags: Flu & Viruses | Pharmaceuticals | Traveller Health | UK News | World Health

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