Treating avian flu 

People with suspected symptoms of bird flu (avian flu) will be advised to stay at home, or will be cared for in hospital in isolation from other patients.

The main recommendations are:

  • resting
  • drinking plenty of fluids and eating healthily 
  • taking medication to help treat fever and pain, such as aspirin and paracetamol (aspirin shouldn't be given to children under the age of 16)

Antiviral medication

In the UK, certain antiviral medications have been stockpiled for use in the event of an outbreak. These medications work by stopping the virus multiplying in your body.

Oseltamivir (Tamiflu), Zanamivir (Relenza) and Peramivir (Rapivab) help reduce the severity of the condition, prevent complications and improve the chances of survival.

For regular flu, these medications are most effective if given within 48 hours of symptoms developing, but it's not clear if this is the case for bird flu. Nevertheless, they should be given as soon as possible to people suspected or proven to be infected, even if it's more than 48 hours after symptoms started.

These medications may also be given as a preventative measure to people who could have been exposed to bird flu viruses – for example, other household members, healthcare workers, or people who have had close contact with infected birds.

In these cases, the course of medication should begin as soon as possible after exposure to the virus and continue for 7 to 10 days after the last known exposure.

Treating complications

Complications such as bacterial pneumonia may develop in some people and can be treated with regular antibiotics.

People who are severely affected may need to be given extra oxygen to help them breathe – for example, through a ventilator (a machine that assists with breathing).

Page last reviewed: 28/05/2015

Next review due: 28/05/2017