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. Some experts even estimate that, by 2050, up to 10 million people may die each year as a result of continued antibiotic resistance.
“The overuse and misuse of antibiotics is perhaps the single most important factor leading to antibiotic resistance around the globe,” says Dr. Fadi Haddad, a board-certified infectious disease specialist with Sharp Grossmont Hospital. “If we don't do something now to prevent the spread of antibiotic resistance, we may soon return to a time when simple infections could kills us.”
To help educate health care professionals and the general public nationwide about this topic, the CDC will observe U.S. Antibiotic Awareness Week, November 12 to 18. 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. Haddad, everyone should be aware that antibiotics will not work for colds, the flu and runny noses, even if the mucus is thick, yellow or green. “Colds, flu, most sore throats, bronchitis and many sinus and ear infections are caused by viruses,” says Dr. Haddad. “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. Haddad, 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. Haddad 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. Haddad about antibiotic resistance for an upcoming story, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at firstname.lastname@example.org.