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Fever-Reducing Medications Could Spread the Flu

Update Date: Jan 22, 2014 12:30 PM EST

A new study is reporting that people who take fever-reducing medications to treat their flu are increasing the likelihood of spreading the flu to others. According to the researchers, taking pills to control a flu-induced fever could release more of the flu virus into environment. This spike in viruses increases others' risks of contracting influenza, which could then increase the flu mortality rate.

"The (message) of this paper is not, 'Don't take anti-pyretics.' That's not what we're saying," stated study leader David Earn, an applied mathematician at Canada's McMaster University. "[But] if you're taking those drugs, there's an effect on the rest of the population that you should be aware of."

The researchers calculated that people who take anti-pyretics, which are anti-fever drugs, increase the total number of influenza cases by around five percent per year. This percentage is equivalent to an additional 1,000 deaths within the United States for a garden-variety flu strain. Earn and his fellow researchers also reported that using fever-reducing drugs raises the flu transmission rate by around one percent during one typical flu season.

"Don't go to work or school because you think you're feeling better. You might spread (the virus) less if you didn't make yourself feel better and you stayed in bed with a high fever," Earn added according to USA Today. "I think most people would imagine that if they feel better, they're probably less likely to infect other people. One effect is you will become more infectious. ... So even if you feel better and feel like interacting with people, you probably shouldn't."

Despite these findings, critics of the study stated that the study was based primarily on hypothetical numbers. Earn and colleagues agreed that more evidence is needed to conclude whether or not the relationship between these medications and the flu transmission rate is strong. The study was published in the British Journal, the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

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