The two newest antiviral medications, Relenza and Tamiflu, may help prevent caregivers and household contacts from getting the flu. But for people who are already infected and sick, they must be taken early in the illness to do any good. Research has shown that they shorten the illness by a day or so, but I know of no evidence that they will prevent deaths or severe illness.
What worries me the most about advertising these drugs is the fear that people will take them indiscriminately and resistance to the drugs could develop quickly. Of course, this warning applies to antibiotics for bacterial infections, too. But the flu virus seems to mutate faster than most other infectious agents.
Researchers have already identified the genetic code of the new flu strain and, with more information on the severity and kind of strain that is infecting people, laboratories are hopeful they can come up with the right combination of strains to give us the greatest protection next fall.
And to those who worry about side effects from the vaccines, I can reassure you that today's vaccines have much less viral material and more of a safe generic adjuvant or "irritant" in them to get the immune systems attention and, so, are thought to be much safer.
I welcome your thoughts and questions.
Dr. Marie Savard is an ABC News medical contributor. Her new book, "Ask Dr. Marie: Straight Talk and Reassuring Answers to Your Most Private Questions," will be available in August.