What are flu


Antiviral drugs are a type of medicine used to treat viral infections.

A flu antiviral works by stopping the flu virus from multiplying in your body, so it can no longer keep you sick.1 Flu antivirals are prescription only medications, meaning you cannot purchase them over-the-counter in your local pharmacy. Your doctor needs to prescribe them.


Why are antivirals important?

Antiviral drugs for the flu are designed specifically to shorten the length of the illness, lessen the severity of symptoms, and avoid complications.2–4

For those at high risk of serious flu complications, antivirals can also reduce the risk of hospitalization2,4-6 and early treatment with an antiviral medication can reduce the risk of death in people who have been hospitalized.6,7

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What are the consequences of not using antivirals?

Without antivirals, people with the flu are likely to be sick for longer periods of time,3 impacting work, school, and even spreading the flu to others. Although most people with the flu will eventually recover without complications, untreated flu for those at high risk could lead to more serious health problems, hospitalization, and even death.4,6


Think you’ve got the flu? Call or visit your doctor to discuss if an antiviral flu medication might be right for you

If you get sick this flu season, it’s important to speak to your doctor or health care provider as soon as possible.

Find out more about the flu in your local area using the MOH Weekly Infectious Diseases Bulletin.


  1. Stiver G. CMAJ 2003; 168(1): 49–56.
  2. Wallick C et al. Poster presented at IDWeek. 3–7th October 2018. San Francisco, CA.
  3. Allen UD et al. Can J Infect Dis Med Microbiol 2006; 17(5): 273–284.
  4. Hayden FG & Pavia AT. J Infect Dis 2006; 194: S119–126
  5. Uyeki TM et al. Clin Infect Dis 2018; doi: 10.1093/cid/ciy866.
  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 2011; 60: 1. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/pdf/rr/rr6001.pdf. Last accessed: February 2019.
  7. Muthuri SG et al. Lancet Respir Med 2014; 2(5): 395–404.