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Prevention of seasonal influenza with antiviral drugs in adults

Kimon C Zachary, MD
Section Editor
Martin S Hirsch, MD
Deputy Editor
Anna R Thorner, MD


Influenza is a communicable but preventable viral illness. Annual immunization is the most important preventive measure [1] and is recommended for all individuals over six months of age in the United States [2]. However, antiviral drugs are available and play an important adjunctive role for patients who have not been immunized or who may not develop immunity from the vaccine.

Two classes of antiviral drugs are available for the prevention and treatment of influenza [3,4]:

The neuraminidase inhibitors, zanamivir and oseltamivir, which are active against both influenza A and B

The adamantanes, amantadine and rimantadine, which are only active against influenza A. Due to a marked increase in resistant isolates, these agents should generally not be used in the United States for preventive therapy except in selected circumstances, which are discussed below. (See 'Choice of antiviral drug' below.)

The role of these drugs in the prevention of seasonal influenza will be reviewed here. The role of antiviral drugs for the treatment of seasonal influenza, the prevention and treatment of pandemic H1N1 influenza and avian influenza, the prevention and treatment of influenza in children, and the pharmacologic characteristics of the these agents are discussed separately. Influenza vaccination is also reviewed separately. (See "Treatment of seasonal influenza in adults" and "Treatment and prevention of pandemic H1N1 influenza ('swine influenza')" and "Treatment and prevention of avian influenza" and "Seasonal influenza in children: Prevention and treatment with antiviral drugs" and "Pharmacology of antiviral drugs for influenza" and "Seasonal influenza vaccination in adults" and "Seasonal influenza in children: Prevention with vaccines".)

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Oct 28, 2016.
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