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H1N1 flu: keep cool

The political and media frenzy around the H1N1 pandemic is disproportionate, given the flu's only moderate severity.

Throughout the summer and into the autumn of 2009, national and international measures to fight the H1N1 flu pandemic were all over the media. This tidal wave of dispatches, announcements, plans, and sometimes contradictory, sometimes biased commentary, submerged both the public and healthcare professionals, awash in promotion for antiviral drugs and vaccines.

Nevertheless, data from the first countries hit show that in reality the clinical severity of this flu pandemic is of the same order as a bad seasonal flu epidemic, not catastrophic. Antiviral drugs have no demonstrated effectiveness in terms of the complications of seasonal flu. Their evaluation, as of mid-2009, was very poor in pandemic flu, and there is no convincing evidence that they dramatically change the natural course of the infection. Including oseltamivir (Tamiflu°), whose severe adverse effects are becoming better known, particularly neuropsychiatric and cutaneous reactions and gastrointestinal bleeding.

©Prescrire October 2009

Source: "Sang-froid" Rev Prescrire 2009; 29 (312): 725.