The Department of Health has notified health professionals today after rising levels of influenza activated the NICE guidance for the supply of oseltamivir (Tamiflu®). The Health Protection Agency has also issued a press statement.
Prevention: Oseltamivir can be prescribed for the prevention of flu to people aged 13 years* or older who:
- belong to an 'at-risk' group, and
- have not had a flu jab this season, or who had one but too recently for it to have given good protection, or have had a flu jab but the vaccine does not match the virus circulating in the community, and
- have been in close contact with someone with flu-like symptoms, and
- can start taking oseltamivir within 48 hours of being in contact with the person with flu-like symptoms.
* - Oseltamivir has gained a license for prevention of influenza in children aged 1 year and older since the publication of the NICE Guidance. It would be appropriate to prescribe to this younger age group, at the appropriate dose, using the criteria above.
Treatment: Within licensed indications, influenza treatment can be prescribed as follows, provided that the treatment can start within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms:
- oseltamivir can be prescribed to adults and children over 1 year old
- zanamivir can be prescribed to adults and children aged 5 years and older
Figures published on the Health Protection Agency website indicate that there is a regional variation in the report of influenza like illness, with lower reporting in North and Southern England and higher reporting in Central England. It may be appropriate to seek the advice of local Health Protection Units before prescribing.
Action: Clinicians should be prepared to prescribe for the treatment and prevention of influenza if advised to do so by local health protection units.
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