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These prescription drugs, when started within two days after someone first becomes sick, can reduce flu symptoms and shorten the time of illness by one or two days.
The CDC recommends prompt treatment with Tamiflu or Relenza for anyone who is hospitalized with a flu-like illness, as well as treatment at the first sign of flu for high-risk people.
People older than 65 also should be given the drugs if they develop flu-like symptoms. Though the elderly have been less likely to catch swine flu, those who do get infected are more likely to become seriously ill, CDC officials said.
Health officials want to avoid overuse of Tamiflu and Relenza, because a virus can develop a resistance, making the drugs ineffective. The CDC said it's aware of only nine cases of Tamiflu-resistance in swine flu, and several were people who were taking the drug as a preventive rather than as a treatment.
Not surprising, said Dr. James Steinberg, an infectious diseases specialist at Atlanta's Emory University. "I would wager there's a lot of treatment going on in people outside the high-risk groups, based on clinicians' preference and patients' demand for treatment," he said.
There are side effects, including nausea or vomiting. Rare psychiatric problems have been reported in flu-infected children taking Tamiflu, mostly among adolescents in Japan. It's still not clear whether the drug or the virus was causing the problem, CDC officials said.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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