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No influenza epidemic in Finland yet - the instructions are updated

Social- och hälsovårdsministeriet
28.8.2009 8.10
Press release 273/2009

The influenza A (H1N1) virus (so called swine flu) has not yet caused an epidemic in Finland. The epidemic will probably start during the autumn. The disease resembles ordinary seasonal influenza. Based on the information obtained of the pandemic internationally and the information from the health care system the instructions given for the treatment of the influenza A (H1N1) virus are now updated.

The symptoms of influenza A(H1N1) disease include sudden fever and respiratory symptoms. Typically, the influenza does not begin with rhinitis only. Patients who are not in need of hospital treatment can be taken care of at home, avoiding contacts with persons outside the family. The sick person should stay at home until the fever has passed and the other symptoms are receding.

Children under 3 are no more included in groups always treated by antiviral medicines

The National Institute for Health and Welfare updates its recommendation by removing children under 3 from the groups to which antiviral medication should be given when suspected of having influenza. Young children often fall ill with respiratory infections caused by different viruses that cannot be distinguished from each other on the basis of the symptoms. Children under 3 with minor symptoms need not be treated with antiviral medicines.

Antiviral medication is still recommended for the treatment of a suspected or diagnosed disease caused by the influenza A(H1N1) virus in the case of pregnant women, persons with certain chronic diseases, health care professionals treating influenza patients, and persons in need of hospital care.

All influenza patients with severe symptoms can obtain medication subject to their doctor’s discretion

The attending physician may at his/her discretion also prescribe antiviral medication for persons with severe symptoms who do not belong to a risk group, and who are not in need of hospital treatment. Although the treatment is started on the basis of the patients’ symptoms, before the outbreak of actual epidemic their infection should be confirmed by laboratory tests. Once the epidemic has started, laboratory tests are not necessarily needed but patients with severe symptoms can be prescribed antiviral medication if the clinical criteria are met.
Laboratories in Finland have considerably increased their capacity to carry out tests to diagnose the influenza A(H1N1) virus. It is not however appropriate to verify the diagnosis of all persons who have fallen ill by means of laboratory tests.

Medication is not prescribed for persons with no symptoms to prevent the disease or to prevent a possible infection during a journey abroad. An exception is patients with a high risk, such as persons diagnosed with a severe blood disease or dialysis patients.
The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and the National Agency for Medicines will issue new regulations regarding the prescription and delivery of medicines, taking into account these changes.

Further information:

Petri Ruutu, Professor, National Institute for Health and Welfare, tel. 020 610 8670
Merja Saarinen, Ministerial Counsellor for Health Affairs, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, tel. (09) 160 74030

Terhi Hermanson, Ministerial Counsellor for Health Affairs, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, tel. (09) 160 73901 (prescription of medicines)

Terho Heikkinen, Docent, Specialist in Paediatric Infectious Diseases, Turku University Central Hospital, tel. 050 535 9095 (influenza in children and its treatment)

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