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DH permits use of antivirals due to rise in flu cases

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Public health officials have confirmed that influenza is now circulating in England, triggering rules allowing antiviral drugs to be used for its treatment.

Latest figures from Public Health England indicate flu is now circulating in the community with increases seen for several indicators, in particular confirmed hospitalisations among younger adults.

As a result, the Department of Health has issued guidance on the use of antivirals in primary care for the management of people presenting with flu-like illness who are at higher risk of developing complications.

Tamiflu

The antiviral Tamiflu

Virus surveillance from the UK and elsewhere in Europe shows the strain A(H1N1)pdm09 is now the main seasonal flu virus.

Previous seasons dominated by the strain suggest it particularly affects children, pregnant women, and adults with long-term conditions – notably chronic heart disease, liver disease, neurological disease and respiratory disease.

The viruses characterised so far this season are well-matched to the vaccine strain, said Public Health England.

Dr Richard Pebody, a flu expert for Public Health England, encouraged vaccination for children and those in “at risk” groups as well as “maintaining good cough and hand hygiene”.

“For most people influenza infection is just a nasty experience, but for some it can lead to illnesses that are more serious, including bronchitis and secondary bacterial pneumonia, which can be life threatening,” he noted.

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