Learn more about swine flu meds

By Britney Glaser - bio | email

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - While the number of people contracting swine flu is on the rise, the good news is that there are medications to treat it. In this Healthcast, we find out more about the anti-viral drugs being used.

With confirmed cases of swine flu flowing in to the Centers for Disease Control, the federal government has started shipping out massive supplies of Tamiflu from the stockpile. Lake Charles Memorial Hospital Infectious Disease Specialist, Carlos Choucino, explains how these anti-viral drugs work.  "It blocks one viral process and the replication of the virus, and therefore once the virus is exposed to it - it cannot make copies of itself," says Choucino.

Tamiflu and Relenza are the only two medications that have been shown to effectively treat this strain of the flu.  Choucino says these drugs should only be used once a person experiences an onset of symptoms. If these drugs are used by a large population not actually sickened by the virus, a drug resistance could develop.  "There's a very good possibility for the virus to have a chance to develop a resistance and if that were to happen," says Choucino, "we would be left with no medications to fight this disease."

That's why both Tamiflu and Relenza are only available through a prescription. Tamiflu is being used to treat many patients over the age of one.  Choucino explains, "Tamiflu is a pill and if you take it for the disease, to treat the disease, you have to take it twice a day for about five days."

Relenza, on the other hand, involves the use of an inhaler and is not recommended for anyone under the age of 7. While there is concern of a pandemic, the virus is nowhere close to matching the 35,000 seasonal influenza-related deaths in the U.S. each year.

"It is a new virus, we have to be very vigilant," says Choucino, "there is no proper way to control it at this time beyond our own selves, so we just have to wait and go day by day."