The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have designated this week Get Smart About Antibiotics Week.
Antibiotics have been absolutely essential in modern medicine, and have done a lot of good. The combination of antibiotics and vaccinations have all but wiped out a number of harmful and dangerous diseases, and antibiotics save million of lives each year. Unfortunately antibiotics have also brought about antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Because antibiotics are so effective, they have been overused in both medicine and in agriculture. Not only are antibiotics one of the most prescribed drugs in human medicine, but antibiotics are also used for things such as promoting growth in livestock. Overuse of antibiotics is the biggest contributing factor in leading to antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Thus we have Get Smart About Antibiotics Week. The purpose of this week’s observance is to increase awareness about the proper use of antibiotics, and the dangers of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Antibiotic-resistance is basically like natural selection. When a person gets sick, they might be prescribed an antibiotic to kill the harmful bacteria. In some cases, however, certain bacteria might survive. These bacteria were resilient to the antibiotic, and they create a strain that are resistant to that antibiotic. When this happens, it can be very difficult to treat an illness that once could have been cured through antibiotics. That’s why it’s so important that antibiotics be used responsibly and only when necessary.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that there are 2 million illnesses and 23,000 deaths caused in the United States by bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics. However, antibiotic-resistant bacteria contribute to more deaths and health complications that are not included in that statistic.
Last year, the White House issued an executive order stating that combating antibiotic-resistant bacteria is a “national security priority”. The purpose of the order is “to detect, prevent, and control illness and death related to antibiotic-resistant infections by implementing measures that reduce the emergence and spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and help ensure the continued availability of effective therapeutics for the treatment of bacterial infections.”
This doesn’t mean that you have to be afraid of antibiotics. Antibiotics save lives and are absolutely necessary in today’s medicine. But when there’s the opportunity for such a valuable form of medicine to bring about harm, it’s important that everybody be educated and informed.