Every year, up to 5 million people worldwide fall severely ill due to influenza (flu), resulting in about 250,000 to 500,000 deaths. In the United States alone, nearly 111 million workdays are lost every season due to the flu. That equals approximately $7 billion per year in sick days and lost productivity.
Flu is a highly infectious disease that is caused by a virus. It spreads rapidly through droplets coughed or sneezed into the air by an infected person. It is common, unpleasant and potentially fatal. Flu vaccines provide effective, though not universal, protection against the flu.
But despite public awareness campaigns in the United States and Europe, many people persist in the mistaken belief that antibacterial drugs — like amoxicillin and azithromycin — are the best treatment for flu. And many doctors simply surrender when patients demand them, ignoring the scientific and medical truth: when treating the flu, antibacterial drugs just don’t work.
A recent European survey showed that half of all respondents wrongly believed that “antibiotics” are effective against the common cold and flu. (Although widely used, the term “antibiotics” is a misnomer. Strictly speaking antibiotics only occur naturally and, as the vast majority of pharmaceuticals are man-made, we should describe them collectively as antimicrobials specifying the type of microbe that they intend to affect — antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal.) The results from surveys in other countries such as the United States and Australia are similar. Antibacterial drugs work against bacteria, not viruses. Flu is a viral infectious disease.