The 2014-2015 flu season is already hitting Americans hard. A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows about half the United States is experiencing high levels of influenza infection hospitalization and death, and the epidemic is expected to continue for several weeks.
If you have not been vaccinated yet this season, the CDC recommends you get your flu vaccine.
If you do happen to get influenza, however, you may have treatment options. Tamiflu, an antiviral prescription medication, can be used to limit the severity of symptoms of the flu, such as stuffy nose, cough, sore throat, fever/chills, aches, and tiredness. It can shorten the duration of the illness by one to two days. It works by stopping the flu virus from growing, according to Arthur Windholz, MD, with Ascension Medical Group.
Another benefit of Tamiflu, he says, is that when it’s taken it also reduces viral shedding, making the virus less contagious to others.
“The medication is best used when started within the first 24 hours of symptoms of exposure," Dr. Windholz says. "For those who have long term symptoms or are high risk cases it can still be effective in the two- to five-day range from exposure or symptoms.”
For patients who already have influenza the medicine is taken twice daily for five days. When used as a preventive measure for those exposed to influenza cases it is taken once daily for 10 days. Dr. Windholz notes that Tamiflu is not a substitute for the flu vaccine.
Tamiflu is primarily prescribed to certain groups of people, he says:
- Those with a severe, complicated, or progressive health problems like chronic pulmonary disease, including asthma; metabolic disorders such as diabetes; heart disease; or suppressed immune system.
- Children younger than 2.
- Adults 65 and older
- Pregnant women
If you think you may have the flu, call your doctor, discuss your symptoms and see if Tamiflu is a treatment option to help treat your symptoms and help prevent others in your household from getting the flu.