It reduces the complications, it'll probably reduce the duration of the illness and what we're particularly interested in is it might reduce the transmissibility - so the ability of one person to infect another might be less if they're on antivirals quickly.
Yeah there's a class called neuraminidase inhibitors - zanamivir and oseltamivir - and they're both effective.
And who's holding the stocks of these drugs? We hear that there's enough to give to half the country but where are they?
Essentially there's three broad sources - I mean one is the standard where you can get a prescription and go to your local chemist and get prescribed it and dispensed from your local chemist. The second is at our health protection units locally, the local teams, who are now going out interviewing potential cases and contacts. We hold a small stock, the deal is about a hundred people at a time, in our units. And then behind that sits a national stockpile which is the number of doses that will be needed to treat about half the population.
And what's the protocol for issuing prescriptions under the current stage four alert? Presumably if we suspect that somebody may have flu it's give the drugs and ask the questions later?
Yes we've two priorities from our point of view at the moment. One is to make sure that people get the treatment they need - the oseltamivir - the other though at the moment is we're very interested in getting the testing done because doing the testing will help us characterise what's happening and therefore help us to actually predict what this might look like weeks, months, years, whatever from now.
And what would you say to otherwise healthy people who are trying to acquire stockpiles of their own drug?