Because the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital recently sent an Ebola patient home with antibacterials, I decided to update my guide to pills that kill things: I added Ebola to list of sample viruses. Some viruses can sometimes be killed with antivirals (e.g., zanamivir, oseltamivir), but viruses cannot be killed with antibacterials (e.g., azithromycin, amoxicillin). Here’s the PDF in case you want a large version to hang up in the Emergency Room lobby. I know there’s a fad of only posting information that is understandable to second graders, but I think there are some patients who would appreciate the guide. Please share with the health practitioner in your family.
As you may notice, I’ve chosen to use the word “antibacterial” instead of “antibiotic” to refer to drugs that are antibacterial. The reason is that many people ask for “antibiotics” even when they know they have a viral disease — the word suggests to many that the drug should be effective against anything biotic (bacteria, fungi, etc.). “Antibiotic” initially had that broader meaning, and Google and many other sites retain such a definition … hence the public’s persistent misunderstanding. The graphic above demonstrates that the word “antibacterial” is completely satisfactory as a drug label. Reducing confusion will reduce the number of patients demanding, and getting, antibacterials when they don’t really need them.