Senior Research Scientist
Current CDC guidelines for antiviral treatment of people with influenza like illness (ILI) effectively discourage treatment of people with no underlying medical conditions unless they exhibit severe symptoms, such as evidence of lower respiratory tract infection or clinical deterioration. This guidance is unlike that provided by some other countries, which allow for treatment of most moderately symptomatic individuals. We examine evidence for benefits of antiviral usage for influenza treatment, including its relation to severe outcomes for the current pandemic H1N1 strain. We also discuss some of the potential cons of antiviral usage. In the current situation in the US, with an elevated and evidently growing burden of influenza hospitalizations and mortality, a high percentage of individuals infected with influenza (with almost all of those carrying the H1N1pdm strain) among those who exhibit ILI and get tested for influenza virus, very low levels of antiviral resistance and little time left for antiviral resistance to take off before large quantities of vaccine become available, we think it is worthwhile to consider a revision to the current antiviral usage recommendations, such that physicians would be encouraged to consider prescribing antivirals to individuals with moderate to severe symptoms who present for treatment.Note: Very recently CDC has adopted clarifications for its antiviral usage guidelines: http://www.cdc.gov/H1N1flu/antivirals/facts_clinicians.htm.