My students & I have talked a bit about swine flu (sorry, Human Influenza A H1N1) in classes over the last week. Probably a lot of other teachers are doing the same thing. Anyway, I’ve come across a rather nice post on the subject by uni lecturer in the US, which anyone interested in the subject would enjoy reading, I think. (I didn’t know that Google has a swine flu map – very nifty!) He’s included a number of very informative links, including one to a site that offers a range of (free!) teaching resources, including lectures on flu & other topics 🙂
And Ben Goldacre has an interesting piece on Tamiflu. (I can’t quite get my head around the way Tamiflu is now available to the public in NZ: from apharmacist, provided an individual suffering from flu turns up for it in person. Certainly, we need to be sure that those receiving the drug actually have the flu, not least because mis-use of it is a first step on the road to resistance to the drug. So I can see why we don’t want to be handing it out to someone who’s ‘come in to get it for mum’. But at the same time, to have people with the flu coming in to a pharmacy seems a good way to help spread the virus around. Bit of a catch-22, really.)
Anyway, the Cochrane Library (as Ben says, a wondrous institution) has looked at data on the effectiveness of two antiviral drugs, Tamiflu & Relenza, in treating & preventing influenza. On the treatment front, it seems that someone taking the drugs will have the course of their illness shortened by roughly one day. Not spectacular. But they do appear to work quite well in preventing symptomatic influenza. On the other hand, they also have some unpleasant side-effects (& the Cochrane authors note there’s no evidence they work against avian flu – the review was completed before this ‘swine flu’ scare came along).