Containing the Swine Flu

May 13, 2009

Europe Tries to Contain H1N1 Flu With Drugs

In an effort to contain the H1N1 (swine) flu outbreak, European countries are using antiviral drugs “very aggressively” to prevent transmission, a World Health Organization official said.

But WHO is cautioning that most cases of the disease appear to be mild ones that won’t need hospital care or antivirals, according to Nikki Shindo, M.D., who leads the agency’s clinical team that’s responding to the outbreak.

Dr. Shindo added that there’s no evidence yet of how well the medications — oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza) — work against the novel H1N1 strain.

In contrast, in the U.S. and Mexico — where the H1N1 outbreak can no longer be contained — officials are using antivirals mainly for treatment of people in high-risk groups or who have severe disease.

“The circumstance in the U.S. are very different from the circumstances in a number of European countries,” according to Anne Schuchat, M.D., of the CDC’s Science and Public Health Program.

“We don’t have a situation where we can contain the virus’s geographic distribution, and our focus is on reducing illness and death and mitigating the impact this virus has,” Dr. Schuchat said.

The priority for antiviral drugs is “where we think the treatment will make a difference,” she added.

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