The numbers are impressively ominous: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), each year in the United States, at least 2 million people become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics — and at least 23,000 people die as a direct result of these infections. The CDC also reports that many more people die from other conditions that were complicated by an antibiotic-resistant infection.
“The overuse and misuse of antibiotics is perhaps the single most important factor leading to antibiotic resistance around the globe,” says Dr. Hai Shao, a board-certified infectious disease specialist with Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center. “Antibiotics are among the most commonly prescribed drugs; however, up to 50 percent of all antibiotics prescribed for people are simply not needed or are not optimally effective as prescribed.”
To help educate health care professionals and the general public nationwide about this topic, the CDC will observe U.S. Antibiotic Awareness Week, November 13 to 19. The observance is a key component of the CDC’s efforts to improve antibiotic stewardship in communities, in health care facilities and even on the farm, in collaboration with state-based programs, nonprofit partners and for-profit partners. The one-week observance “raises awareness of the threat of antibiotic resistance and the importance of appropriate antibiotic prescribing and use.”
In observance of Antibiotic Awareness Week, reminders and education will be shared with doctors, nurses and patients across the Sharp HealthCare system.
According to Dr. Shao, everyone needs to be acutely aware that antibiotics will not work for cold and 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 fight true bacterial infections, such as whooping cough, strep throat or urinary tract infections.”
This is important to understand, says Dr. Shao, because when a person is infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria, not only is treatment more difficult, but also the resistant bacteria can spread to others.
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.
- If you experience any serious side effects to the medication, call your doctor immediately.
- Always wash your hands before and after using the restroom.
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 email@example.com.