A study published in the July issue of Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology shows that antibiotic prescriptions tend to spike during flu season, even though influenza is caused by a virus and cannot be treated with antibiotics.
Some of these antibiotic prescriptions are justified – bacterial pneumonia, which must be treated with antibiotics, is also common during the winter months. And getting the flu puts you at higher risk for developing complications from secondary infections, including bacterial pneumonia.
Yet some people suffering from the flu virus alone may demand–and get–an antibiotic even though viral infections do not respond to antibiotic treatment.
According to Extending the Cure, a nonprofit project funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Pioneer Portfolio, between 500,000 to one million antibiotic prescriptions are filled each year during flu season for patients who have the flu and no bacterial illness.
Why should we care about how many antibiotics are prescribed?
When antibiotics are overused or inappropriately used, bacteria can develop antibiotic resistance, or the ability to withstand antibiotic treatment, making bacterial infections difficult to treat. Antibiotic resistance can develop quickly. Today’s antibiotics – the wonder drugs that transformed modern medicine – are used so commonly that we face the prospect of a future with a multitude of resistant bacteria and a shelf full of ineffective drugs.