We are now able to prescribe anti-viral treatments for people at high risk of severe illness from either Covid-19 or influenza, but many eligible people are missing out on these potentially life-saving treatments. Whilst not a cure, they can reduce the severity of infection which will reduce the chances you would need to go to hospital, have breathing difficulties or even die. They don’t replace vaccination of course, which is the most effective way of reducing your chances of getting severely unwell with either Covid-19 or flu.

For both conditions, anti-viral treatments need to be started as soon as possible – for Covid-19 they must be started within 5 days of onset of symptoms, and for influenza it’s 48 hours. If you are in an at-risk group, we recommend planning ahead and having a chat with your GP to determine if you would be eligible for anti-virals, when to test and what to do if you test positive.

At the time of writing, Australia is averaging around 50 deaths per day due to covid. Health authorities are concerned that many people who could benefit from potentially life-saving covid treatments are not getting access to them in a timely manner. GPs are now able to prescribe two anti-viral covid treatments (in tablet form) for covid positive patients at risk of developing severe disease. Neither of these treatments are a cure, and do not replace the need for vaccination.

Criteria for eligibility for these anti-viral treatments is currently very strict however, and subject to change. For now, we urge all our patients who are aged 65 and over or aged 18 and over with conditions which affect your immune system, to test for covid as soon as you experience symptoms and to contact us for a telehealth appointment straight away should you test positive. Time is critical, the treatment must be started within 5 days of the onset of symptoms. Eligibility is not just age-based and can be complex and highly individualised; your GP is best-placed to advise if they are suitable for you.

There are a number of anti-viral treatments available for the treatment of influenza. They have been around for many years and are safe, available for children and adults, including women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, and can be prescribed by your GP. These treatments are not a cure but they can reduce the risk of serious disease and shorten the duration of the illness. They do not replace the need for vaccination. 

Influenza anti-viral treatment is recommended for anyone with moderate to severe flu and in the groups most at risk of complications:

  • People aged 65 or older
  • Children aged 5 years and under
  • Pregnant women
  • People with obesity, serious cardiovascular disease, chronic lung disease, severe chronic liver or kidney disease, diabetes, active cancer or any condition leading to a weakened immune system
  • Residents of aged care or disability homes
  • People with disabilities including those that affect the lungs, heart or immune system

To be effective, treatment must start within 48 hours of the onset of the illness, so getting tested as soon as you start to feel symptoms is important. Most covid testing sites are now routinely testing for influenza as well. If you are in one of the groups above, please get tested as soon as you can and if you test positive for flu, book a telehealth consultation with your GP as soon as possible so we can discuss whether anti-virals are right for you. We can also arrange an at home self-testing kit for influenza in certain circumstances.

Remember, vaccination against both covid and influenza still offers the best protection. Both vaccines can be given on the same day.

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