Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Using Anti-Viral Pharmaceuticals to Treat the Flu

Anti-viral pharmaceuticals will not miraculously cure the flu. They are decent at prophylaxis (prevention,) but not in treating. Most people who become sick with influenza will recover at home without the need for pharmaceuticals.

An analysis published in the Lancet (Jefferson T et al 2006: 367: 303-313) showed that Amantedine prevented 61% of influenza A cases and 25% of cases of influenza-like illness in non-vaccinted individuals. Treatment trials of Amantadine and Rimantadine showed fever duration decreased by 1 day. There were no effects on viral shedding, so people were contagious for the same amount of time.

A meta-analysis by NJ Cooper et al (BMJ. 2003 Jun 7; 326 (7401): 1235-42) focused on Zanamivir and Oseltamivir (Tamiflu) use in households where a case of flu was confirmed. Symptomatic influenza cases had a relative reduction of 80-91%. Thus Zanamivir and Oseltamivir appear to be better at preventing flu than Amantedine. Treatment with Zanamivir and Oseltamivir reduces time of symptoms by 0.4-1.5 days, once again not a very dramatic change. Their use did decrease the amount of antibiotics used to treat secondary bacterial infections.

What does this tell us? We need to work hard to prevent catching and transmitting the flu. We do not need to use pharmaceuticals to treat most cases of the flu. Everyone should continue basichabits that promote good health- drinking plenty of clean water, eating lots of fruits and vegetables, sleeping 8 hours a day, exercising, frequent hand washing, and using stress reduction techniques (yoga, meditation, exercise, prayer, etc).

Talk to your healthcare provider about other options to prevent the flu. There are many natural substances that may help, as well as the vaccine. You are unique and deserve to have expert advice on what is best for you!
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