Most H1N1 patients don't need antiviral medication

October 1, 2009

Antiviral drugs should be used to treat H1N1 swine flu only in patients who are hospitalized from the flu or are at high risk of complications.

Antiviral medications should be used to treat H1N1 swine flu only in people who are hospitalized from the flu or are at high risk of complications from it, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

At a Sept. 8 news conference, CDC officials announced new guidelines for the use of antivirals, which include oseltamivir and zanamivir. According to the agency, because H1N1 has been mild in most people who contract it, the majority of patients will not need to take antivirals. Those who should receive the drugs if they get swine flu include people with underlying health conditions, such as diabetes or asthma; the elderly; the very young; and pregnant women.

One of the CDC's reasons for determining that most swine flu patients should not receive antivirals is concern over development of H1N1 resistance to them. The guidelines also offer a "watchful waiting" alternative to starting antivirals in high-risk people only exposed to H1N1, foregoing treatment unless symptoms appear. However, the officials stress, upon flu symptom onset, antiviral treatment should begin promptly in these individuals rather than waiting for confirmatory test results.