Flu Shots Decrease Use of Antibiotics

Doctors prescribe them less when the shots are available
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 9, 2009 1:32 PM CDT
A nurse administers a flu shot.   (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)
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(Newser) – Providing flu shots to the public decreases the prescription of antibiotics, say Canadian researchers. The results of a 10-year study in Ontario will be good news to public health officials who worry that over-prescription of antibiotics is creating more resistant bacteria, reports Miller-McCune. Researchers found that doctors prescribed 64% fewer antibiotics once universal flu shots went into effect in the province.

Antibiotics don't work on the flu, which is a virus, but doctors tend to prescribe them to patients in the early stages of sickness when it's hard to differentiate between viral and bacterial infections. "It can be hard to tell with coughs and fever," one Toronto GP said. "And sometimes you can start with a viral infection and it becomes a bacterial infection.”