In reviewing recent advances in upper respiratory tract infections, we focus on five key topics. First, the use of ribavirin in the treatment of respiratory syncytial virus infection has been limited to the immunosuppressed. Prophylaxis in high-risk patients with specific immunoglobulin is effective and a new monoclonal antibody shows promise. Second, the efficacy of neuraminidase inhibitors in the treatment of influenza has become established. There are unresolved concerns about early implementation of therapy without a firm diagnosis; resource implications are enormous. Third, an outbreak of influenza due to avian influenza virus (H5N1) raised the possibility of a new pandemic. However, there was minimal person-to-person spread although much was learned about pathogenesis of infection. Fourth, evidence favoring the use of ciprofloxacin rather than rifampicin for meningococcal chemoprophylaxis is reviewed. Efficacy in eradicating nasopharyngeal carriage is excellent. Finally, the management of sore throat has been considered. This remains controversial but evidence supporting antibiotic therapy in adults is lacking. If treatment is indicated in childhood, shorter courses of antibiotics may be effective.