Delving deeper, the team also noted that Tamiflu was prescribed much more frequently during the pandemic than other years.
"About 70 percent of children hospitalized for the flu during the 2009 pandemic were prescribed antiviral medication, mostly Tamiflu," Randolph explained, "whereas only 19 percent of such children received antiviral treatment during the three previous flu seasons."
When the researchers looked at the risk factors for mechanical ventilation for both seasonal and pandemic flu, one thing stood out: children prescribed Tamiflu shortly after admission for the flu were much less likely than children who did not receive the antiviral to require a ventilator at day 3 or later of their hospital stay. The association held for children hospitalized for seasonal influenza and for those admitted during the 2009 pandemic.
The results suggest that because these children received early antiviral treatment in the hospital, their flu infection was less likely to worsen to the point that their lungs started to fail.
"The use of Tamiflu in a hospital setting has been on the rise, and some have questioned whether it is effective," said Randolph. "These data suggest that early use of influenza antivirals among children hospitalized for the flu might decrease the frequency of respiratory failure occurring after hospitalization. This is important because respiratory failure is a strong risk factor for flu-related death and is associated with the significant costs and morbidity related to mechanical ventilation and intensive care."
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SOURCE Boston Children's Hospital