CDC Warns of Drug-Resistant Flu Bug
Tamiflu-Resistant Flu Bug Spreading in U.S.
WebMD News Archive
Tamiflu has been the most attractive treatment because it is taken in pill
form and can be given to children as young as 1 year old.
Relenza comes in an inhaler. Children younger than 7 can't use it for
treatment, and those younger than 5 can't use it for prevention. Moreover,
Relenza sometimes causes lung spasms, so it can't be used by people with lung
Ironically, the CDC's Tamiflu warning is not going to make a huge difference
in how patients are treated because too few people get treated with flu drugs,
says Joseph S. Bresee, MD, chief of the epidemiology and prevention branch of
the CDC's flu division.
"Even among hospital patients with the flu, more than half do not
receive antiviral therapy," Bresee tells WebMD. "[Tamiflu] and
[Relenza] are relatively underused at this point."
Bresee suggests that the current warning might actually increase use of flu
drugs by making doctors more aware of how to use them.
Here's what the CDC now recommends:
- Doctors should keep track of the subtypes of flu virus circulating in their
areas. The CDC offers weekly updates based on reports from local and state
- When testing patients for the flu, doctors should consider using tests that
can tell type A flu from type B flu.
- Use Tamiflu alone only if the main flu bugs in the area are type A H3N2 or
- If drug-resistant virus is circulating in the area, use Relenza. In
patients unable to take Relenza, doctors may use a combination of Tamiflu and
Flumadine (or Symmetrel if Flumadine isn't available).
But here's the best advice: It's not too late to get a flu shot (or sniff,
via the inhaled FluMist vaccine). Flu season rarely peaks before February --
and lots of people come down with the flu as late as March or April. So if
you've been putting off getting your flu shot, now is the time to act.