ASK THE GP
In a new column, our doctor answers your questions. This week: should I take Tamiflu?
I am 40 years old and have no medical problems. If I catch swine flu should I take the drug Tamiflu? Swine flu is a respiratory illness caused by the virus H1N1. The symptoms are similar to regular seasonal flu.
The media has a huge impact on the public’s perception of swine flu and I have seen horror in people’s faces when I have told them they probably have the virus.
Reassuringly, the illness has been mild in most people, although it has proved to be severe in a small minority of cases.
As doctors, one of our roles is to provide our patients with up-todate information, so they can make informed choices about treatment options. At the moment, as recommended by the Health Protection Agency, all those who are suspected of having swine flu will be offered an anti-viral drug.
Tamiflu will be offered to the majority of patients, although pregnant women will normally be offered the drug Relenza.
Currently, those people with longterm medical conditions, children under five, people over 65 and pregnant women are recommended to start treatment as soon as possible, ideally within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms.
Tamiflu has been shown in healthy adults to reduce the duration of a flu illness by approximately one day, and can help reduce the risk of complications such as chest infections. Interestingly, the evidence for Tamiflu has come from studies of seasonal flu so we do not know whether the benefits will be the same, more, or less in people with swine flu. Side effects can occur — the most common are nausea and vomiting.
It is impossible to know exactly what will happen to each individual, however.
For more information on swine flu see call the National Pandemic flu service on 08001513100 or speak to your GP.