Zanamivir is used to treat and prevent symptoms caused by the influenza (flu) virus. It works by stopping the influenza virus from multiplying in your body and reduces the symptoms of the flu. It also reduces the risk of other problems that can sometimes occur with the flu, such as pneumonia. In New Zealand, zanamivir is only funded for some people in hospital with a weakened immune system who are at higher risk of getting the complications of the flu. Others will need to pay the full cost. It is not free on prescription. Zanamivir is available as an inhalation powder to be used with a special disk inhaler device.
To treat influenza
- If you already have signs and symptoms of the flu, zanamivir helps to reduce symptoms such as fever, chills, stuffy nose, cough, sore throat, aches and tiredness. It shortens the time to recover from the flu by 12 to 24 hours.
- Zanamivir is best started within an hour or two of the first symptoms of the flu, but it can still be effective after this time, as long as it is started within 48 hours of the first symptoms or within 36 hours for children.
To prevent influenza
- Zanamivir may also be used to prevent the flu in some high-risk people who have been exposed to someone who already has the flu (such as a sick household member) or if there is a flu outbreak in the community.
- To prevent influenza, zanamivir is best started within 36 hours of coming into contact with someone with the flu.
- Getting the flu vaccine is the best way to protect against getting the flu and to control the spread of the flu. Zanamivir is not a substitute for the flu vaccine.