A 4-year-old died of the flu after his anti-vaxxer mum didn't give him Tamiflu — here's how the drug can prevent the virus from becoming deadly

Mario Tama/Getty ImagesA package of Tamiflu in a pharmacy
  • A 4-year-old boy died of the flu after his mother followed advice from people in an anti-vaxxer group on Facebook to treat him with elderberries and breast milk instead of Tamiflu.
  • After his mother posted on Facebook asking for advice for her son’s high fever, group members told the woman to not use the Tamiflu medication prescribed to her by doctors.
  • Tamiflu is a medicine used to treat strains of the influenza virus (flu) that can be given to anyone older than two weeks and is a recommended treatment for the virus by both the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organisation.
  • Tamiflu shortages are often reported in the US during flu season because of high demand for the drug.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

A four-year-old Colorado boy died of the flu on Wednesday after his mother took advice from people in an anti-vaccination group on Facebook to treat his 102F fever with elderberries, breast milk, and other “natural remedies” rather than using the Tamiflu medication doctors prescribed him.

According to the Colorado Times Recorder, the boy’s mother asked for advice in the “Stop Mandatory Vaccination” Facebook group after her son was diagnosed with the influenza virus by emergency room doctors on Saturday.

“Yes it’s scary the doc told me to give my other two children and myself Tamiflu so we won’t get it,” the mother said in a comment in one of the screenshots published by the Times Recorder.

Several days later, her son was taken to the hospital where he died due to complications from the flu according to his updated GoFundMe page.

VaccinesJohannes Eisele/AFP via Getty ImagesA nurse prepares the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine at the Rockland County Health Department in Haverstraw, Rockland County, New York on April 5, 2019.

Tamiflu is an antiviral drug used to treat the flu in people older than two weeks

Created in 1999, Tamiflu is an oral medication typically prescribed by doctors to adults and children with early symptoms of the flu to combat the length and effects of the virus, like high fevers, coughs, and chills.

Tamiflu works by stopping the growth of the virus rather than eradicating it, which makes it crucial to take it in the virus’s early days, according to WebMD.

It has also been found to be effective in stopping the spread of the flu and is recommended for people who have been exposed and may not yet have symptoms, like family members living with someone who shows symptoms of the virus.

While it helps to combat symptoms of the flu, it is not a substitute for the annual flu vaccine, which is designed to prevent people from catching the flu, but also lessens the intensity of flu in those who do contract the virus after getting the vaccine.

There are often Tamiflu shortages during flu season, which makes it even more important to get vaccinated

Doctors often receive questions about whether Tamiflu is actually effective because it doesn’t perfectly combat the flu.

However, Tamiflu is highly recommended by both the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organisation as an effective treatment for the virus when used correctly. It has also been found to reduce symptoms and duration of the flu from 30% to 40% when used in the early days following contact with the virus, according to WebMD.

Doctors warn Americans not to become reliant on it, though. The CDC reported shortages of Tamiflu and other antiviral flu treatments in 2017 and 2018 in areas of the US with high infection rates of the virus.

These yearly shortages could be attributed to the rising number of flu-related hospitalizations every year, according to the CDC.

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.