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Flu season 2018 here in the U.S. was one of the most severe ever and close to epidemic levels in several states. Indeed, the flu is still active in 34 states according to the CDC (Center For Diseases Control). Traditionally, May is the end of the flu season, and this year the flu vaccine was mostly ineffective.

In addition to the flu shot, antiviral medications can be effective against the flu. Currently, three antivirals on the market are Tamiflu, Relenza, and Rapivab. Let’s check them out.


flu season


Flu Season: Antiviral Medications

Tamiflu, Relenza, and Rapivab, are antiviral drugs that are approved for use this season are all neuraminidase inhibitors. This class of drugs works by blocking the release of virus particles from infected cells. That prevents the virus from infecting other cells.

The flu virus infects a cell in the respiratory tract and then it makes new copies of itself inside the cell. These copies need to be released to go out and infect other cells. The molecule that does the release is called the neuraminidase, and these neuraminidase inhibitors block that release action.


Flu Season: Speed of The Antivirals

One trial showed that an antiviral given to adult outpatients within the first two days of illness shortened the illness by one day. Overall, flu duration was shorter the earlier the treatment was given. Optimally, it should be given within 6 hours of the symptoms occurring.

Antivirals also reduce the risk of complications, such as lower respiratory tract infections like pneumonia. And there’s some data to suggest they reduce the risk of being admitted to the hospital. In hospitalized patients, there is observational data to show that influenza antivirals can both reduce mortality and shorten the length of the hospital stay.


Flu Season: Antivirals Benefit Senior Citizens

Senior Citizens are one of the groups at highest risk for complications from influenza. They’re more likely to go on and develop severe or complicated illness. For example, it can cause complications in multiple organ systems,  increase the risk of heart attack, and induce infections around the heart.

Therefore,it’s especially important that seniors receive early treatment. A 2015 study that looked at antiviral treatment for those 65+ and hospitalized with flu, found that antivirals shortened the duration of their hospital stay. Moreover, it also reduced their risk of needing extended care after discharge. And early treatment provided the most benefit.

Vaccination really is the ideal best way to prevent flu, which is why it’s recommended for everyone six months and older. We typically consider antivirals as an important adjunct to vaccination. Antivirals are what we have to deal with the illness that does occur.

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