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Microsoft word - 0060324 common sense to fight bird flu.doc
might help cope with an outbreak of H5N1, it is
For one thing, stocks are limited and it will take
years for Roche to ramp up production -- even if,
Little can be done to prevent an outbreak of bird
as is being discussed now, it licenses generic
flu if it comes in the next year or so before
vaccine production can get started, health
experts caution, but they say common sense
Plus, the more widely any drug is used, the more
likely the virus or bacteria it targets is to develop
what is known as resistance, meaning the drug
Number one is hand-washing, they say - a
surprisingly effective way to prevent all sorts of
Both Tamiflu and Relenza treat a flu infection,
diseases, including ordinary influenza and the
making it less serious and perhaps making the
H5N1 virus that everyone now fears may jump
illness last fewer days. But they must be taken
into humans and cause a catastrophic pandemic.
within 48 hours of the first symptoms to do any
Number two -- do not try to buy your own
personal supplies of Tamiflu, one of two drugs
They can also prevent infection with garden-
variety flu if taken, for example, by a family
member caring for a sick relative. No one knows
And number three , stay home if you do get sick.
Old-fashioned hygiene works very well, experts
"If you were to take it as a preventative you'd
have to take it for probably weeks, a pill a day,
75 milligrams a day is what they recommend,"
"You wash your hands and you cut the
transmission of a bunch of diseases," said Dr.
Jeffrey Griffiths of Tufts University School of
And the average person is not going to know
when, precisely, to begin taking the drug. Many
infections look like flu, said pediatrician and
This is because any type of influenza is mostly
immunologist Dr. Anne Moscona of Weill Cornell
wipe their noses, then touch a microwave button.
Or particles from a cough land on a tabletop, only
"If you have Tamiflu at home and you take it for a
to be picked up on someone else's finger.
cold or give it for a respiratory virus that is not
influenza, we will be unable to use these drugs
While viruses can be suspended in the air in
when we encounter a lethal strain of flu,"
droplets, doctors agree they are much more
commonly spread on the hands. Alcohol-based
gel or foam hand sanitizers also work well to
If people do get sick, they must be careful to stay
"Not exposing yourself to others is the best thing
effective -- Roche and Gilead Sciences' Tamiflu,
you can do for public health," said Dr. Chris
and GlaxoSmithKline's inhaled powder Relenza.
Woods of Duke University Medical Center in
But Dr. D.A. Henderson, who helped lead the
But if people are forced to go out while ill,
effort that wiped out smallpox and who founded
wearing a face mask would be a responsible
the Center for Biosecurity at the University of
thing to do, although it is unlikely to protect
Pittsburgh, said it would be a mistake for
individuals to try to buy the drugs now.
"People have asked, 'Should we wear masks?',"
Henderson said. Studies show that people
usually breathe in so forcefully when they wear a
"I think Tamiflu is being regarded now as the
mask that they end up sucking in unfiltered air
panacea of all panaceas," Henderson said in a
Copyright 2005 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.
Henderson and other experts say while Tamiflu
Republication or redistribution of Reuters content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters.
Common sense can help people protect themselves against a Bird Flu pandemic
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