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October 5, 2009

Marla Augustine, Communications and Legislative Services, (402) 471-4047 or


Antibiotics Don’t Help with the Flu

If you have a cold, or the flu, antibiotics won't work for you
2nd Annual Get Smart about Antibiotics Week Oct. 5-11, 2009

Lincoln—Antibiotics won’t help if you come down with 2009 H1N1 influenza, just as they don’t work for other viruses, according to the state’s Chief Medical Officer.

“Antibiotics can address bacterial infections, but not viral illnesses, like influenza,” said Dr. Joann Schaefer. “So, please don’t ask your doctor for antibiotics if you have the flu. Antibiotics won’t make you feel better or recover faster.”

Inappropriate use of antibiotics may lead to antibiotic resistance, a concern to public health officials and medical providers. If bacteria develop resistance to certain antibiotics, the drugs may not be useful anymore in treating infection. Taking antibiotics when you don't need them or not as prescribed increases your risk of getting an antibiotic-resistant infection.

“Antibiotic overuse is a serious problem and a threat to everyone’s health,” Dr. Schaefer said.

Doctors often feel pressure from patients or parents to prescribe antibiotics, especially during the flu season, even though the drugs don’t treat viruses. According to a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, 50 percent of people who visit their doctor for upper respiratory infections receive an antibiotic prescription.

“If you do have the flu, if it’s appropriate, your health care provider may prescribe an antiviral drug, not an antibiotic, for you,” Dr. Schaefer said. “Antivirals, if taken in the first 48 hours, may lessen your symptoms and shorten the duration of your illness.”

To help prevent illness:

  • Wash your hands frequently or use hand sanitizer;
  • Avoid close contact with people who appear ill;
  • Get vaccinated for the flu and, if appropriate, get the pneumococcal vaccine, as well. Ask your health care provider.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is observing the second annual Get Smart About Antibiotics Week October 5-11.

For more information visit .