While Americans wait for the H1N1 influenza vaccine, it’s important to know and understand the options for treatment for those who have been diagnosed and are ill.
Two antiviral medications, oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza) are active against the H1N1 strain of virus and can be used to treat those who have been diagnosed with (or are strongly suspected of having) this infection. It is important that the use of these medications is started as soon as possible (within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms) if they are to be effective. When used for treating infection, these medications are usually administered twice a day for five days. They do not immediately relieve symptoms, but may shorten the duration of symptoms by approximately one day, on average. There has been some recent publicity that the intravenous administration of a single dose of another antiviral agent has been highly effective in treating H1N1 flu. However, this drug is still being evaluated and is not commercially available.
Individuals who experience symptoms such as sneezing, nasal congestion, or coughing that may be associated with the flu should speak with a pharmacist, physician, or other health professional. It may be that these symptoms are not due to a flu infection, but rather have developed because of an allergy or common cold, and can be effectively treated with a nonprescription product.
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