News release: State health officials ask Minnesotans to join global effort to fight antibiotic resistance

News Release
November 14, 2016

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State health officials ask Minnesotans to join global effort to fight antibiotic resistance

Nov. 14-20 is ‘Get Smart About Antibiotics Week’ in Minnesota

State health officials are joining public health leaders around the world during the week of Nov. 14 in calling attention to the issue of antibiotic resistance—one of the most important public health threats of the 21st century. They’re asking health care providers and patients to do their part.

Antibiotic resistance means bacteria stop responding to the drugs designed to kill them. Over the years, improper and unnecessary use of antibiotics has led to the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. 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.

Governor Mark Dayton proclaimed Nov. 14-20 “Get Smart About Antibiotics Week” in Minnesota. The proclamation can be viewed at Governor Dayton Proclamations (non-MDH link no longer exists). The week coincides with CDC’s observance of Get Smart About Antibiotics Week, World Antibiotic Awareness Week, European Antibiotic Awareness Day, Canada Antibiotic Awareness Week, and other similar observances across the world.  

“Antibiotics are a critical public health tool. They make it possible for us to fight bacteria that cause serious infections and even death,” said Dr. Ruth Lynfield, State Epidemiologist and Medical Director at the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). “We have to protect antibiotics now in order for them to work long into the future.”

Health officials remind providers that they need to be diligent in their prescribing of antibiotics. Each year in the United States, 47 million unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions are written in doctor’s offices, emergency rooms, and hospitals. The overuse of antibiotics has made infections with antibiotic-resistant bacteria more common in health care settings and in the community. This results in higher health care costs, poorer health outcomes, and a need for treatment with more toxic drugs.

During cold and flu season, it can be tempting to insist on an antibiotic from your health care provider to help you feel better, but antibiotics won’t work against these and other viral illnesses. Taking antibiotics when they are not necessary can do more harm than good by increasing your risk of getting an antibiotic-resistant infection later.

“We all have a role to play in preventing antibiotic resistance,” said Dr. Lynfield. “It will take collaboration among providers and the public here in Minnesota and across the globe to slow antibiotic resistance.”

Follow these tips to fight antibiotic resistance:

  • Decrease the need for antibiotics by avoiding infections. Wash your hands properly, cover your cough 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.

The state’s commitment to antibiotic stewardship goes beyond Get Smart week. MDH conducts antibiotic stewardship activities throughout the year and offers toolkits for a variety of health care professionals. MDH has also partnered with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, Board of Animal Health and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to form the One Health Antibiotic Stewardship Collaborative. One Health is the idea that the health of people, animals and the environment are all interconnected and antibiotic use affects them all. The group’s five-year strategic plan to fight antibiotic resistance launched in July 2016.

Learn more about this issue by visiting the MDH Antimicrobial Resistance website or CDC’s Get Smart: Know When Antibiotics Work website.


Media inquiries:

Doug Schultz
MDH Communications