If you have a fever with a cough or sore throat, you can take steps to protect yourself and avoid spreading illness to others.
A vaccine is available to prevent influenza. There are also several drugs that are used to prevent and treat flu, including oseltamivir (Tamiflu™), zanamivir (Relenza™), and recently approved peramivir (Rapivab™). The first is taken orally, the second is inhaled, and the third is used in hospitalized patients and given intravenously (through a vein). These medications, which require a doctor’s prescription, are known as antivirals. They can prevent severe illness by helping your body combat influenza viruses.
Most people recover completely from influenza without medication, but certain people are at higher risk of severe illness or complications. If you or a family member meet one of the descriptions on the list below, and you develop flu-like illness (fever accompanied by cough or sore throat) or have had recent close contact with someone with flu-like symptoms, please call your doctor or clinic to discuss treatment with antiviral medicine.
Those at higher risk for flu complications include :
If you belong to one of these higher-risk groups, and you’re in close contact with someone who has influenza, a health-care provider may recommend that you take antiviral medicine as a precaution.
No, you don’t need a flu test to receive treatment for flu-like illness. Testing to confirm influenza infection should be reserved for people who are critically ill.
Flu antivirals are medicines that can help people who are already sick with influenza get better faster and avoid dangerous complications. Download our Flu Antivirals Printable Handout (PDF).
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The Health Department recommends that doctors prescribe treatment for anyone with flu-like illness who belongs to any of the higher-risk groups listed above. If you or a family member are at higher risk and you develop flu-like illness, take your temperature. If the reading is 100 degrees or higher, call your health care provider and explain that you have flu-like illness and may be at risk of complications. You do not need to go to a hospital unless your symptoms are severe. The provider may want to see you, or may be able to prescribe treatment by calling your pharmacy.
Oseltamivir (Tamiflu®) is available as a liquid. It is used for children or those unable to shallow pills. If you need fill a prescription for the liquid form, call your pharmacist first to make sure it is available. Large pharmacies are reporting good supplies. If your pharmacy doesn’t have the liquid form in stock, the pharmacist may be able to create it for you from capsules – a process called compounding. Not all pharmacies are capable of compounding.
Every New Yorker should have a regular doctor or other health provider. If you don't have a regular provider, you can get one through your health plan. And if you don’t have a health plan, you may qualify for free or low-cost health insurance. To find out, call 311 and ask about HealthStat.
New York City’s public hospitals and community clinics will care for anyone in need, and will charge according to the person’s ability to pay. Facilities operated by New York City Health + Hospitals set fees for services and medicine according to people’s ability to pay. Services are also available at low cost or no cost through federally funded health centers. To find federally funded health centers near you go here and enter your zip code.
These health centers can provide:
Before visiting a health center, you can call to schedule an appointment or find out if there is a clinic even closer to you.
Patients receiving services through the New York City Health + Hospitals may qualify for free or discounted medications. Some federally funded health clinics also provide prescription drugs to their patients, but antiviral medicine is not currently available through these programs.
If you have a severe or worsening symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, go immediately to a hospital emergency room or call 911. If you have a medical condition such as heart disease, immune deficiency, diabetes, or severe asthma, and your symptoms are getting worse, you should contact or visit a doctor or a hospital right away. If you aren’t sure where to get care, call 311 for information. Care is always available if you need it, and no one will check your immigration status. Here are some signs that you may need medical treatment: