Separating Myth from Fact

Myth: “If I get the flu I can ask for an antibiotic.”
Fact: Viruses and bacteria are uniquely different micro-organisms. Fighting a virus with an antibiotic, which is an antibacterial agent, is not only ineffective, it contributes to antibiotic resistance, a major public health problem.

If, on the other hand, you develop bacterial pneumonia as a result of having the flu, your doctor is likely to put you on some very strong antibiotics to fight the pneumonia.
Myth: “There’s no treatment for the flu other than rest and chicken soup.”
Fact: Antiviral medications are now available, but they must be started within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms. Prescription antiviral drugs may lessen the severity and duration of the illness.
Myth: “Everyone in our family washes with antibacterial soap, which prevents the spread of flu.”
Fact: In the same family as antibiotic medicines, antibacterial soaps are ineffective at killing viruses. But washing frequently with ordinary soap can reduce the chances of flu transmission and is highly recommended.
Myth: “I’ve been vomiting and can’t keep anything down. I must have the stomach flu.”
Fact: Although it is a popular term, there is no such thing as “stomach flu.” The main illness causing abdominal cramps, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and sometimes a fever and headaches is called gastroenteritis and can be caused by a virus—but not the influenza virus. It can also be caused by bacteria, parasites or foods that irritate the stomach.

Influenza viruses can sometimes cause diarrhea and vomiting along with more common flu symptoms such as fever, headache, cough, sore throat and fatigue—especially in children.
Myth: “I got the flu last year so I won’t get it this year.”
Fact: Unless you were very unfortunate, chances are good that you were infected with only one of several different flu strains that circulate each year. In addition, even the same strain changes from year to year, so it may still infect you, although with less severe symptoms. Each year, an estimated 10 to 20 percent of the population contracts seasonal influenza.

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