Prevention and Treatment

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Inactivated vaccine

 This vaccine is trivalent, containing an inactivated strain of influenza A H3N2, an inactivated strain of influenza A H1N1, and an inactivated strain of influenza B. This vaccine is administered as an injection, generally in the arm. It needs to be re-administered each year with a new combination of viruses, depending on international virus surveillance and estimations about which strains will likely be circulating.

Live attenuated vaccine

Recently approved, this vaccine consists of live, but weakened influenza viruses. Like the inactivated vaccine, this vaccine is trivalent and covers an influenza A H3N2 strain, an influenza A H1N1 strain, and an influenza B strain. However, the live attenuated vaccine is not injected, but inhaled through the nose. The only available live attenuated influenza vaccine is marketed as FluMist, and is available for healthy individuals 2-49 years of age who are not pregnant.


M2 Inhibitors

M2 inhibitors act to inhibit the activity of the M2 viral protein, which is necessary for the uncoating of the virus in the cell. Antivirals of this class, which include amantadine and rimantadine, are effective only against influenza A viruses.

Neuraminidase Inhibitors 

Neuraminidase inhibitors work to inhibit the activity of the neuraminidase surface protein on the virus. If the neuraminidase protein is inhibited, the virus cannot effectively leave the cell, and cannot therefore infect other cells. This class of antivirals includes oseltamivir (brand name Tamiflu) and zanamivir (brand name Relenza) and can be used against all influenza viruses. 

Behavioral Prophylaxis

Behavioral prophylaxis is perhaps some of the most important and effective methods in preventing infection by influenza viruses. It can occur on multiple levels, including the national/international level and the individual level. Governments, scientists and public health officials should continue to monitor the development of new strains, and communicate the varying risk accordingly. National governments can stockpile antivirals (although they may not be useful for particular strains, if they have developed resistance), increase vaccine production capabilities, and build health infrastructures to mitigate the impact of an epidemic or pandemic. Individuals can do many things on their own to prepare for a pandemic, but simple hygiene such as frequent hand-washing can do a lot for the protection. For more behavioral prophylaxis ideas, download the Influenza Pandemic Preparedness and Response- A Citizen's Guide.