On Friday, the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention released a notice that the current mix of influenza virus prevalent contains one strain that is resistant to the best-selling antiviral flu medication, Tamiflu.
According to the CDC, there is no cause for alarm as it is early in the flu season, and the resistant strain, known as H1N1 displayed a dominant presence at the start of last year’s flu season only to switch to the strain known as H3N2. The current influenza vaccine is formulated to defend against the three dominant strains, H1N1, H3N2 and Influenza B.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is no reason to panic although 49 out of 50 trials resisted Tamiflu as it can still be treated with other flu medications.
CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding said, “It is still very early in the season. There is very little influenza out there. This is probably actually not going to affect very many people because we don’t use a lot of antiviral drugs in our country.” Gerberding said, “Most people with influenza don’t get any treatment.”
In an average year 36,000 Americans die from the flu and three strains of flu circulate in a normal flu season called H1N1, H3N2 and influenza B. The H1N1 strain which mostly comes from Hawaii, Massachusetts and Texas is the strain that is turning up resistant samples. “We can’t predict whether or not these strains will end up being the most important strains in this year’s flu season. This particular H1N1 could fizzle out,” Gerberding said.
While the H1N1 influenza strain has shown resistance to Tamiflu antiviral medication, it is still susceptible to another antiviral medicine called Relenza. Tamiflu is made by pharmaceutical giant Roche AG and Gilead Sciences Inc., which claims that if taken quickly enough is said to both prevent and treat the flu. Relenza is made by GlaxoSmithKline, under license from Australia’s Biota Inc.
The CDC recommended that Relenza be used alone or a combination of Tamiflu and an older drug called rimantadine should be used if infection with H1N1 is suspected. The CDC said that there is still time for preventative action as it’s early in the flu season and recommends vaccination for protection. The peak time for the flu season is usually in February.