Most people infected with the “swine flu” or influenza type A-H1N1virus do not need antiviral drugs. If you are otherwise fit and healthy, you can expect your full recovery within a week’s time, even without special medication. However, if complications develop or you belong to a high risk group, like the very young or the very old, or you are pregnant or have diabetes, a heart disease or some other chronic medical condition, you may need to take some antiviral drugs to help your body’s immune system fight off the H1N1 virus infection.
According to the CDC, there are currently five licensed prescription influenza antiviral agents that are available in the market. Of these, three influenza antiviral medications approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are recommended for use in the United States during the 2015-2016 influenza season, namely oral oseltamivir (brand name Tamiflu), inhaled zanamivir (brand name Relenza), and intravenous peramivir (brand name Rapivab). These three drugs are chemically related and are collectively known as “neuraminidase inhibitors” that have activity against both influenza A and B viruses.
The other two are amantadine and rimantadine which are antiviral drugs in a class of medications known as “adamantanes.” These two drugs are active against influenza A viruses, but not influenza B viruses. As in recent past seasons, there continues to be high levels of resistance to adamantanes among influenza A (H3N2) and influenza A (H1N1) pdm09 (or 2009 H1N1 or “swine flu”) viruses. Therefore, amantadine and rimantadine are not recommended for antiviral treatment or chemoprophylaxis of currently circulating influenza A viruses. All FDA-approved antiviral drugs are available at Publix pharmacy outlets.
Treatment with antiviral drugs should be started as soon as possible after the onset of illness, ideally within 48 hours of symptom onset. According to the CDC, antiviral treatment is recommended as early as possible for any patient with confirmed or suspected influenza who is hospitalized, has severe, complicated, or progressive illness or is at higher risk for influenza complications. In these instances, the CDC said the antiviral treatment can be started even without waiting for a laboratory confirmation of the influenza. The usual duration of treatment is 5 days although longer treatment regimens may be prescribed in the case of severely ill hospitalized patients.
Aside from the time of the onset of the disease and the severity of the symptoms, other factors that will be considered by your doctor when prescribing antiviral medication include the patient’s age and weight, renal function and presence of other medical conditions, as well as the potential for any adverse interaction with other medications that must also be taken.