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How can antiviral drugs help prevent the flu from spreading?

In terms of flu prevention and treatment, drugs called neuraminidase inhibitors (NAI)—also referred to as antivirals—attack influenza viruses at the cellular level and block the viruses' ability to escape from cells already infected, thus preventing the infections from spreading.

These antiviral medications can also prevent the flu by containing the virus in certain settings, such as family members passing the flu to one another in a household or coworkers spreading it in the workplace.

Antiviral drugs can help prevent the flu from spreading by decreasing the duration of illness in individuals who have had symptoms for less than 48 hours. Pre-exposure prophylaxis with antivirals has a very limited role and should only be used in individuals at very high risk for influenza complications due to the concern about supply of antivirals, potential for adverse affects, need for long-term use and resistance. The recommended practice to reduce the spread of influenza is for individuals to be vaccinated annually prior to flu season, limit contact to those that are known to be infected with influenza, avoid droplets from coughing and sneezing and practice good hand washing hygiene.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.