November 16, 2015
Public health leaders align to fight antibiotic resistance
Gov. Dayton declares “Get Smart – Know When Antibiotics Work Week” in Minnesota
State health officials are asking Minnesota residents to “Get Smart” about antibiotics in order to keep them working to fight serious bacterial infections.
The growth of infectious diseases that are resistant to antibiotics has become so concerning that leaders of world, national and state public health agencies, such as the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), are joining forces to draw attention to the issue and call for action.
Each year in the United States, at least 2 million people fall ill and 23,000 people die from infections caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have identified antibiotic-resistant bacteria as one of the most important public health threats of the 21st Century. In March 2015, the White House released the National Action Plan for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria to provide a roadmap for this urgent threat.
Because of growing concern, the WHO has declared Nov. 16-22 to be “World Antibiotic Awareness Week.” The goal is to increase understanding throughout the world about the problem of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and the importance of protecting antibiotics through appropriate use.
To encourage Minnesotans to use antibiotics wisely and halt the continuing rise of resistant infections, Governor Mark Dayton proclaimed Nov. 16-22 as “Get Smart – Know When Antibiotics WorkWeek” in Minnesota. The proclamation can be viewed at: Governor Dayton Proclamations (non-MDH link no longer exists).
As part of efforts to raise awareness of the issue, MDH and its public health partners around the state will participate in a global Twitter chat from 1-3 p.m. CT Wednesday, Nov. 18. Experts from CDC and WHO will also be on the chat. It will be an important conversation with antibiotic resistance partners and experts worldwide.
Other activities during the week includeaUniversity of Minnesota student event – a screening of the documentary film “Resistance” followed by an expert panel discussion.
In addition, in January 2016, several Minnesota state agencies will host an antibiotic resistance summit including a broad range of stakeholders from human, animal, and environmental health to develop a five-year strategic plan to combat antibiotic resistance.
Throughout the year, MDH engages in ongoing antibiotic stewardship activities with its many public health partners and offers tool kits for a variety of health care professionals.
“Antibiotics are powerful tools for fighting bacterial infections, particularly those associated with surgery, cancer treatments, and intensive care. However, we have been using them indiscriminately and if we don’t change our approach we will lose these important tools,” said Dr. Ruth Lynfield, State Epidemiologist and Medical Director at the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). Antibiotics are only effective against bacterial infections – not viral infections such as colds. Up to one-third to one-half of antibiotic use in humans is either unnecessary or inappropriate.
Use of antibiotics puts pressure on existing strains of bacteria to change in a way that makes them resistant, reducing the effectiveness of antibiotics to control bacterial infections. Overuse of antibiotics accelerates this process. Infections with antibiotic-resistant bacteria are becoming more common in healthcare settings and in the community. This leads to higher health care costs, poorer health outcomes, and a need for treatment with more toxic drugs.
There are a number of things individuals can do to help stem the rising tide of antibiotic resistance:
- Decrease the need for antibiotics by avoiding infections. Wash your hands properly and get recommended vaccines.
- Do not ask for antibiotics when your doctor thinks you do not need them.
- When you are given a prescription for antibiotics, take them exactly as your doctor prescribes. Never skip doses or stop early unless your doctor tells you to do so.
- Only take antibiotics prescribed for you; do not share or use leftover antibiotics. Antibiotics treat specific infections. Taking the wrong medicine may make things worse.
- Do not save antibiotics for the next illness. Properly dispose of any leftover medication once the prescribed course of treatment is completed. Information on proper disposal of medication can be found at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency website.
- Learn more about this issue by visiting the MDH website at: Antimicrobial Resistance or CDC: Get Smart.