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Federal authorities said Tuesday that health care providers could consider simply watching for flu symptoms in some individuals rather than prescribing preventive antiviral drugs right away if a person has been exposed to the flu.

"In the new guidance, we add an option," said Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Instead of preventive use of antivirals, providers might want to consider watchful waiting."

Under watchful waiting, a clinician would wait to see whether someone who came into contact with an infected person went on to develop flu symptoms -- like fever or respiratory problems -- before prescribing the drugs, she said.

But the list of people with flu symptoms who should be given antivirals remains unchanged from the disease agency's recommendations in May, she said. It includes people with chronic conditions, the very young, the very old and pregnant women.

"Timing is important," she said. "Beginning treatment within 48 hours of symptoms can really help with the outcomes. People can do better with the illness." Read full article »

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