Bird Flu Alarm

Understanding Avian Influenza

Are medications available to treat the viral infection?

At this time, two drugs in the neuraminidase inhibitor class, oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza), reduce the severity and duration of the seasonal influenza if administered within 48 hours after symptoms begin.  Clinical data is limited for utilization of these drugs with H5N1 viral infections but laboratory data indicates that if administered early, the avian influenza virus will be susceptible. The H5N1 virus is resistant to the older antiviral drugs amantidine and ramantidine, so they are unlikely to work against an emerging human H5N1 strain. It is always possible, however, that the genetic reassortment producing a pandemic strain might confer susceptibility once again to these older drugs.

Primary restraints on stockpiling the neuraminidase inhibitors now involve a very limited production capacity and a prohibitively high price for many countries. Various countries have formed a rather long queue at the door of Roche Pharmaceuticals, currently the sole manufacturer of Tamiflu. Strong efforts are now underway to allow alternative production sources to ramp up across many nations.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommended that countries begin to stockpile Tamiflu in April of 2005 when it declared a phase three interpandemic alert. WHO is also

suggesting that countries maintain adequate supplies of antibiotics to treat what may occur as a secondary infection with the flu.

Understanding Avian Influenza