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Vidyya, from the Sanskrit "vaidya," a practitioner who has come to understand the science of life.

Volume 1 Published - 14:00 UTC    08:00 EST    18-October-2000      
Issue 188 Next Update - 14:00 UTC 08:00 EST    19-October-2000      

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Uncomplicated influenza gets better with or without treatment, but may cause substantial discomfort and limitation of activity before getting better. Complications of influenza can include bacterial infections, viral pneumonia, and cardiac and other organ system abnormalities. People with chronic medical conditions may have increased risk of complications when they get influenza. Many other diseases, including serious infections such as rapidly progressive bacteremias, may start with symptoms that resemble influenza and may need to be considered in treatment decisions.

Many people with uncomplicated influenza use over-the-counter medicines to help lessen their symptoms. Antiviral drugs can also help to reduce the time it takes for symptoms to improve in uncomplicated illness caused by influenza virus. Recent increases in the number and promotion of antiviral drugs for influenza have increased interest in the role of specific antiviral drugs for this condition.

Complications of influenza, and other illnesses that resemble influenza, may require different treatment and may need urgent medical attention. Use of antiviral drugs does not eliminate the risk of complications, and some complications (as well as other medical conditions that could be confused with influenza) can be life-threatening. In addition, influenza viruses can become resistant to specific anti-influenza antiviral drugs, and all of the drugs have side effects. Therefore, patients with new symptoms during treatment, or symptoms that persist or get worse during treatment, should consult a health care provider.

The following links lead to information such as trade names, package inserts, and other material related to the four antiviral drugs currently approved by FDA to treat acute, uncomplicated influenza. Two related drugs, amantadine (approved 1966; Trade Name Symmetrel, and others) and rimantadine (approved 1993; Trade Name Flumadine), are approved for treatment and prevention of influenza A. Two newer drugs, zanamivir (approved 1999; Trade Name Relenza) and oseltamivir (approved 1999; Trade Name Tamiflu), are approved for treatment of acute uncomplicated illness due to influenza A and B; these have not been approved for preventive use.   Approved ages, doses, and uses in children are different for each drug, so the individual package inserts should be checked for this information. The anti-influenza antiviral drugs are not a substitute for vaccine and are used only as an adjunct to vaccine in the control of influenza.

The antiviral drug information covers the side effects of each drug. Because some side effects can be serious and because viruses may become resistant when antiviral drugs are used indiscriminately, decisions on the use of these drugs should be based on individual evaluations of risk and benefit.

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Editor: Susan K. Boyer, RN
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