Get Smart About Antibiotics Week is November 17-23

Learn how to use antibiotics appropriately and help reduce the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 2 million people become infected annually in the U.S. with bacteria that have become resistant to antibiotics. They estimate that at least 23,000 individuals in the U.S. die each year as a direct result of these infections and many more die from conditions complicated by their antibiotic-resistant infection. Though antibiotics are some of the most commonly-prescribed drugs, the CDC states that nearly 50 percent of antibiotics prescribed are not needed.

They note that the widespread use of antibiotics is the biggest factor causing the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria worldwide. Because of this continually-evolving problem, the CDC sponsors an annual one-week awareness campaign entitled “Get Smart About Antibiotics Week” to raise awareness about antibiotic-resistance and to help people learn the appropriate use of antibiotics. The United States is not the only nation celebrating this annual one-week awareness campaign. Australia, Canada and Europe all host similar observances during November.

The situation has become critical enough that the White House issued an Executive Order September 18, 2014 pledging that the Federal Government would address the issue by collaborating both domestically and internationally with organizations dedicated to stemming the increasing number of bacteria resistant to more and more different antibiotics. While this Executive Order acknowledges the important role played by antibiotics in saving lives worldwide since being discovered in the early 20th century, to preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics as a course of treatment, steps clearly need to be taken to stop additional bacteria from developing a resistance to antibiotics.

The CDC is planning a variety of activities during this year’s Get Smart About Antibiotics Week. On Tuesday, November 18 from 3-4 p.m. ET, they are hosting a Twitter chat focusing on antibiotic resistance. Interested individuals are encouraged to join the chat using hashtag #SaveAbx. There will also be a 24 hour global Twitter chat involving several countries at #AntibioticDay. Check the CDC’s Activities and Events webpage for information about these and other events being planned. If you like to develop events in your own community, take a look at the planning materials CDC provides to assist you in doing so.

The CDC has created a variety of resources for different audiences including parents, day care providers, medical staff in both out-patient and in-patient settings. They offer brochures, fact sheets and posters that answer common questions and concerns. Find out when it is appropriate to use antibiotics to treat a runny nose, fluid in the middle ear, and view a chart that lists upper respiratory infections that are caused by viruses which antibiotics cannot kill. Most of the print materials are produced in both English and Spanish language formats.

Use of antibiotics in food-producing animals is also a growing concern. The CDC notes that antibiotics have often been used to promote animal growth as well as to address a particular health issue. Scientists now caution that these practices can have multiple negative impacts. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria can thrive in the animals and be transmitted to humans through the food-supply chain. These bacteria can then cause infections in humans and cause serious health consequences including death as noted above.

The Food and Drug Administration has outlined a strategy supported by the CDC to address antibiotic use in farm animals. They continue to monitor the situation and provide regular updated guidance for cautious use of antibiotics on the farm.

The CDC released a comprehensive report in April 2013 that provides a wealth of information about the current status of antibiotic resistance in the U.S. Check their Antibiotic/Antimicrobial Resistance webpage for new information as it becomes available.

If you have additional questions, visit the Michigan State University Extension website where you will find articles posted by Extension educators on a variety of related topics. If your question is still not answered, you are invited to contact an MSU Extension expert or an expert at other Extension universities across the country.

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