At a time when swine flu has raised its ugly head once again in the state of Jammu and Kashmir with eight positive cases and two deaths in the Jammu region, Doctors Association Kashmir (DAK) Sunday urged doctors to prescribe early antiviral drugs to swine flu patients that would provide life-saving benefits to them.
President DAK and flu expert Dr Nisar ul Hassan said that early antiviral treatment would prevent the risk of serious complications and reduce deaths.
“A large meta-analysis conducted across 38 countries and involving more than 29,000 patients showed that early treatment with antivirals reduced the risk of death by 60 percent,” he said.
Dr Nisar said that the doctors should prescribe antiviral medication as soon as possible and should not wait for the lab test results as delay could be fatal.
According to a panel report, 70 percent of swine flu deaths this year at Pune were due to delay in treatment.
Studies have shown that flu antiviral drugs work best for treatment when they are started within 48 hours of onset of the illness.
However, starting them later can still be helpful, he added.
Clinical and observational data show that early antiviral treatment shortens the duration of illness and makes flu milder.
Dr Nisar said that antiviral treatment is recommended for any patient with confirmed or suspected flu who is hospitalized or has severe illness or is at higher risk of flu-related complications.
He said that antivirals can also be considered on the basis of clinical judgment for those who do not have risk factors for severe illness.
“Currently, oseltamivir (Tamiflu) is the most important and effective antiviral drug for treatment and prevention of flu. It has been removed from schedule drugs and made freely available across stores. The drug can be safely given to pregnant women and infants aged 2 weeks and older,” said Dr Nisar.
As swine flu virus has undergone a change, it is likely to infect more people who have not developed immunity to it yet, he cautioned.
“31,787 cases of swine flu have been reported across the country so far this year with 1,586 deaths, which is almost six times more than deaths recorded last year,” he said.