Tamiflu

Tamiflu – The most remarkable flu treatment available today

One thing that’s for certain is that 2009 will go down as the year in which the world experienced the new strain of the H1N1 flu pandemic, more commonly known as swine flu. The new H1N1 virus emerged in Mexico in April 2009 as a new strain of the influenza A virus. It combines genes from human, pig and bird flu and quickly reached pandemic status (i.e. an epidemic that covers a wide geographic area and that affects a large proportion of the population). Indeed, the World Health Organisation declared that new H1N1 flu had reached pandemic proportions just two months later on 11th June 2009.

Certainly flu pandemics are not new phenomena - three flu pandemics occurred in the 20th century alone killing tens of millions of people worldwide. Pandemics result from the appearance of new strains of the virus in humans which often occur as a result of an existing flu virus spreading from other animal species to humans or when an existing human strain mutates by picking up new genes from a virus that usually infects birds or pigs. In the 1990s there was real concern surrounding the emergence of what is commonly referred to as bird flu (caused by the H5N1 virus). This resulted from a bird-adapted strain of the flu virus – hence the name. Many were worried that bird flu would result in yet another pandemic but we were saved from that scenario when it became clear that bird flu had developed into a flu strain that was not particularly contagious amongst humans.

Fortunately the current pandemic strain (new strain H1N1), although highly contagious, tends to result in a fairly mild illness in most people who contract it and they recovery quickly. But there are certain groups of people who are at a higher risk of developing potentially life threatening complications such as pneumonia or even blood stream infections if they contract the new strain H1N1 flu. These higher risk groups are:

  • Children aged 6 months to 18 years inclusive - the younger the child, the higher the risk
  • Pregnant women
  • People aged 50 years and above
  • People of any age with certain medical conditions, such as heart or lung disease (COPD, asthma and emphysema) or who are otherwise immuno-compromised

Having said this, it should be remembered that even if they fall into these higher risk categories, most people recover from the new strain H1N1 flu just fine with no serious ongoing medical complications.

However, even without flu pandemics, flu spreads around the world in each year in seasonal epidemics. As it spreads, the virus is slowly changed by mistakes made when it copies its genetic material. These changes make it very difficult for our immune systems to recognise the infection for a second time. This means that a previous bout of the flu does not prevent subsequent infections. Sometimes the mutations are such that the level of immunity within a population becomes very low which can result in a flu epidemic. And regular flu should not be taken lightly because each year hundreds of thousands of people die from contracting flu and the complications that it can bring about.

So just what is “the Flu”?

The term 'flu' is often misused to describe a range of mild respiratory bugs, but true influenza is a potentially serious, even life threatening, disease. It is caused the highly infectious RNA viruses from the orthomyxoviridae family. Three types of flu virus have been identified: A, B and C. Types A and B produce essentially identical illnesses, but influenza C infection produces milder symptoms, more like a cold. Swine flu is a subset of the influenza A virus.

Flu is not a newly discovered disease, although in earlier centuries it was sometimes known as distemper. Records show that even the Ancient Greeks recognised it. It gets its name from the Latin word 'influentia', meaning 'influence', because 14th century Italians thought that the flu was caused by the adverse influence of the stars.

What are the symptoms of flu?

Flu symptoms often appear quite suddenly. The disease only has a short incubation period; the gap between exposure to the virus and development of symptoms is about two to three days. Symptoms usually last for three to seven days in total although a period of convalescence then follows which can last up to three weeks during which the sufferer often continues to experience tiredness, and occasionally depression.

Although infection with flu is confined to the respiratory tract (nose, throat and airways) it produces generalised symptoms throughout the body as the immune system gears up to tackle the virus. Flu produces symptoms that are very distinct from the common cold, and include:

  • Fever - a body temperature of 100° F or 37.8°C (higher than 100° F)
  • Body chills - even where the environment is warm
  • Headache and muscle aches
  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose - more common in children than adults
  • Dry cough - productive coughs where mucus is coughed up are common with colds whereas the coughs associated with flu are dry
  • Chest discomfort
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Stomach symptoms - a rare symptom in adults but again a more common symptom in children. Can include nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea

How does flu spread?

Flu is highly contagious. It’s spread by way of droplet infection. The virus particles that cause the disease are incredibly tiny only measuring about one ten-thousandth of a millimetre in diameter. Once inside a host, the virus locks onto and invades target cells in the respiratory tract. Each infected cell can produce thousands of new viral particles. This means that every time an infected person coughs or sneezes millions of these virus particles are sprayed out into the air where they wait to be breathed by another susceptible victim. It is also possible to become infected by touching your nose or mouth after you have touched something that has been infected with the virus.

The whole situation is exacerbated by the fact that you become infectious about a day before you begin to feel unwell and remain infectious for the first 5 days of the illness. It’s easy to see why, with such an effective way of spreading the disease; flu can spread quickly throughout an unsuspecting population.

How can Tamiflu help in the fight against flu?

Tamiflu (also known as Oseltamivir) works not only as a treatment for the disease itself but also as a preventative measure.

When Tamiflu appeared on the market in 1999, it became the first oral antiviral medication available for both the treatment and prevention of influenza types A and B. It has proven to be remarkably successful and today it ranks as the number one doctor prescribed flu medication in the United States. Indeed, it has become so popular that it is now virtually a household name when it comes to treating flu.

How does Tamiflu work?

Tamiflu belongs to a class of drugs known as neurominidase inhibitors. As a neurominidase inhibitor, Tamiflu blocks the action of viral neurominidase proteins. Viral neuraminidase proteins are the enzymes that exist on the surfaces of influenza viruses that enable viral particles to be released from infected host cells. By blocking the action of viral neurominidase proteins, Tamiflu stops infected cells from releasing new viral particles.

And it’s because of this ability to stop new viral particles from being released that Tamiflu can be used as both a treatment and a preventative measure. If you already have the flu, it can help stop the spread of the virus in your body or if you have been exposed to someone who already has flu, it can help stop the flu virus from making you sick.

When do you have to take Tamiflu for it to be effective?

Timing is important if Tamiflu is to work. Essentially, you have 48 hours in which to start taking Tamiflu from when you or someone in your family first begins to show signs of developing flu.

How effective is Tamiflu?

Tamiflu is approved for use in both adults and children over the age of one and if you start taking it within the first 48 hours of developing flu symptoms, Tamiflu can really help you get better fast. Studies have shown that adults who take Tamiflu feel better 30% faster than those who don’t. And children with flu have been found to feel better 26% faster than those children with flu who haven’t taken Tamiflu.

Would I need Tamiflu if I have already had a flu shot?

Every year many people have flu shots to try and stop themselves from contracting flu in the first place. Flu shots are especially recommended for those people who would otherwise be very vulnerable of developing complications if they picked up flu. As we’ve already discussed, flu can be fatal.

Certainly flu shots are the best form of protection against flu, but as flu strains constantly mutate, a flu shot doesn’t guarantee that you will not get flu because you may be exposed to a flu strain that was not covered by your vaccination. It’s in this sort of situation that Tamiflu may be able to help.

So remember, whether you are particularly worried by swine flu or whether you just want to be able fight off regular seasonal flu, Tamiflu can help.

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Dosage

Tamiflu is a prescription medication, with the dosage amount being determined by both age and weight:

  • For adults and children over 13 yrs - 1 dose = one 75mg pill
  • For children aged 1-12 yrs:
  • Child Weight One Dose
  • 33lbs (15kg) or less - One 30mg pill
  • 34- 51lbs (16-24kg) - One 45mg pill
  • 52-88lbs (24-40kg) - Two 30mg pills
  • 89lbs (41kg) or more - One 75mg pill

How often you have to take your dose of Tamiflu depends upon why you are taking Tamiflu:

  • For flu treatment; One dose twice a day for 5 days
  • For flu prevention; One dose once a day for 10 days

Tamiflu can be taken with or without food (see side effects below).

Side Effects

Generally Tamiflu is well tolerated. However, as with most medicines some people may experience side effects. If you are unfortunate enough to experience side effects, they will generally be mild in nature. The most common side effects are mild to moderate nausea and vomiting. Taking Tamiflu with a light snack, milk or a meal may help to reduce the possibility of suffering from an upset stomach.

In rare cases, serious skin reactions have been reported. In the unlikely event of this happening to you, stop taking Tamiflu and call your doctor.

There have also been reports that some people with flu who take Tamiflu may be at increased risk of self injury and confusion, particularly if the patient is a child or adolescent. Therefore, these patients in particular should be closely for any signs of unusual behaviour and if such behaviour does occur, a health professional should be contacted immediately.

Warnings

Do not take Tamiflu if you are allergic to oseltamivir phosphate or any other ingredients in Tamiflu.

Consult your doctor before taking Tamiflu if you suffer from any type of kidney disease.

The effects of Tamiflu on the unborn child or nursing infant are not yet known. Therefore you should consult your doctor before taking Tamiflu if you are planning to become pregnant, are pregnant or breast feeding.

Intranasal flu vaccines should not be administered within the 2 weeks before or 48 hours after taking Tamiflu, unless otherwise advised by your doctor. This is because there is a possibility that the two products may interfere with one another. This does not apply to those flu vaccines administered via an injection through the skin.


Product Range


  • Tamiflu Oseltamivir
    10 x 75mg Caps

    Tamiflu Oseltamivir

    $79.99
    Discontinued Product

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