In addition to increasing the risk of death, these antibiotic-resistant infections lead to increased hospital stays and additional doctor visits, as well as an increased risk of adverse events and medical costs.
“Antibiotic resistance is one of the most urgent public health threats that can affect people, animals and the environment,” says Dr. Hai Shao, a board-certified infectious disease specialist affiliated with Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center. “The most important and modifiable factor leading to antibiotic resistance is the overuse and misuse of antibiotics.”
According to Dr. Shao, everyone needs to be aware that antibiotics will not work for colds and the flu. “Colds, flu, most sore throats, bronchitis, and many sinus and ear infections are caused by viruses,” says Dr. Shao. “Antibiotics do not help fight viruses; they should be used to treat true bacterial infections, such as strep throat or urinary tract infections.”
In recent years, new technology is helping health care providers differentiate between conditions that need antibiotics from ones that do not. These genetic-based methods help quickly identify bacteria, including resistant ones, with a much quicker turnaround time compared to traditional methods.
What’s a patient to do?
Dr. Shao says that if you have been prescribed an antibiotic, you should:
- Take the prescribed antibiotic exactly as your health care professional tells you.
- Never skip doses or stop taking an antibiotic early — even if you no longer feel sick — unless your health care professional tells you to do so. It is important to finish all the doses ordered.
- Never share your antibiotics with friends or family.
- Never reuse old antibiotics for subsequent infections without seeing a health care professional first.
- Call your doctor immediately if you experience any serious side effects to the medication.
For more information about the safe and proper use of antibiotics, please visit cdc.gov/getsmart.
For the news media: To talk with Dr. Shao about antibiotic resistance for an upcoming story, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at firstname.lastname@example.org.