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Assessing the use of antiviral treatment to control influenza

Abstract

Vaccines are the cornerstone of influenza control policy, but can suffer from several drawbacks. Seasonal influenza vaccines are prone to production problems and low efficacies, while pandemic vaccines are unlikely to be available in time to slow a rapidly spreading global outbreak. Antiviral therapy was found to be beneficial during the influenza A(H1N1)pdm09 pandemic even with limited use; however, antiviral use has decreased further since then. We sought to determine the role antiviral therapy can play in pandemic and seasonal influenza control using conservative estimates of antiviral efficacy, and to assess if conservative but targeted strategies could be employed to optimize the use of antivirals. Using an age-structured contact network model for an urban population, we compared the transmission-blocking ability of a conservative antiviral therapy strategy to the susceptibility-reducing effects of a robust influenza vaccine. Our results show that while antiviral therapy cannot replace a robust influenza vaccine, it can play a role in reducing attack rates and eliminating outbreaks, and could significantly reduce public health burden when vaccine is either unavailable or ineffective. We also found that antiviral therapy, by treating those who are infected, is naturally a highly optimized strategy, and need not be improved upon with expensive targeted campaigns.

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