ATLANTA (CBS Atlanta) – Nearly 30 percent of patients treated during the 2012-13 flu season may have been prescribed antibiotics instead of antiviral therapy, reports Live Science.

In a groundbreaking new study, researchers from the CDC and other institutions found that antibiotics, which are ineffective against the flu virus, were overprescribed.

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They looked at information from over 6,700 patients in five states. About 1,020 of the patients with flu symptoms were considered at high risk for influenza complications. Less than 200 of these patients received antivirals.

Doctors prescribed antiviral medications to a relatively small percentage of patients for whom the medications were recommended and missed potential opportunities to prevent more serious complications in these patients, the researchers said.

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Less than 20 percent of patients with flu symptoms who could have had benefited from antiviral medication actually received the treatments. Among patients who were confirmed to have contracted the influenza virus through laboratory tests, only 16 percent were prescribed antivirals.

Seasonal influenza causes thousands of hospitalizations in the United States each year and can lead to even more serious outcomes. 64 children died from the flu between September 2012 and February 2013. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend yearly vaccinations to prevent influenza outbreaks.

The study is published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

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