In a new col­umn, our doc­tor an­swers your ques­tions. This week: should I take Tam­i­flu?

The Jewish Chronicle - - Life/health - DR AN­DREW WILFIN

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.

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