Bird Flu: 10 Questions, 10 Answers
What You Can Do; What the Government Is Doing
Tier 1, Group A:
- The approximately 40,000 people essential to vaccine manufacture.
- Medical workers with direct patient contact
Tier 1, Group B:
- People with two medical conditions that put them at high risk of flu
- People with a past history of flu hospitalization
Tier 1, Group C:
- Pregnant women
- Household contacts of people with immune-system problems (such as transplants or AIDS) that
prevent them from being vaccinated
- Household contacts of children under 6 months of age
Tier 1, Group D:
- Emergency response workers critical to pandemic response
- Key government leaders
Tier 2, Group A:
- Healthy people aged 65 and older
- People aged 6 months to 64 years with one medical condition that puts them
at high risk of flu complications
- Healthy children aged 6 to 23 months
Tier 2, Group B:
- Emergency responders not critical to pandemic response
- Public safety workers (firefighters, police, 911 dispatchers, correctional
- Utility workers essential for maintaining power, water, and sewage
- Transportation workers transporting fuel, water, food, and medical
- Transportation workers providing public ground transportation
- Telecommunications and internet technology workers essential for network
operation and maintenance
- Other key government health decision-makers
- Funeral directors and embalmers
- Healthy people aged 2 to 64 years not included in the above
5. What good are antiviral drugs?
Antiviral drugs taken within 48 hours of the first symptoms -- such as a
sudden fever -- make the illness less severe. The sooner after infection these
drugs are taken, the better.
The H5N1 bird flu is resistant to an older and less potent class of flu
drugs, which includes Symmetrel and Flumadine. These drugs won't work and would
not be used in bird flu pandemic.
Newer and more effective flu drugs, Tamiflu and Relenza, can still work
against H5N1 viruses. However, several bird flu viruses isolated from infected
humans have already become resistant to Tamiflu.
Relenza is sprayed in the nose. It is extremely effective at neutralizing
flu viruses. But people who get bird flu from poultry tend to get infections
deep in their respiratory tracts. It's not at all clear that Relenza could
reach such deep-seated infections.
Could flu drugs protect people from getting the flu? Yes and no.
People who are stockpiling Tamiflu likely will take the drugs at the wrong
time, in the wrong way. That's likely to offer little protection -- and to spur
the virus to become even more resistant to Tamiflu.
But in a community experiencing a flu pandemic, Tamiflu and Relenza could be
quite effective, says flu expert Anne Moscona, MD, professor of pediatrics and
microbiology and immunology, and vice chairwoman of pediatrics research at
Weill Medical College of Cornell University in New York.
The drugs could be used to protect people with known exposure to someone
infected with pandemic flu virus.