It doesn't get the attention that it should, but this year, November 18-24 has been designated "Antibiotic Awareness Week" in the United States. During this week health care professionals, including pharmacists, will be encouraged to shine a light on the threat of antibiotic resistance, and the importance of proper prescribing and use.
Antibiotic Awareness Week is an annual commemoration sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in conjunction with other health care networks. According to the CDC, at least 28 percent of antibiotics prescribed each year in U.S. outpatient settings are unnecessary. Anytime antibiotics are used, they can cause side effects and contribute to the development of antibiotic resistance. CDC describes antibiotic resistance as "one of the most urgent threats to public health." Each year in the U.S. more than 2.8 million infections arise from bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics. These infections result in more than 35,000 deaths.
To help promote awareness of the need for antibiotic safety, CDC has prepared a series of talking points for health professionals to use with patients:
- Antibiotics can save lives. When a patient needs antibiotics, the benefits outweigh the risks of side effects and antibiotic resistance.
- Antibiotics do NOT treat viruses, like those that can cause colds, flu or COVID-19.
- Antibiotics are only needed for treating certain infections caused by bacteria, but some bacterial infections get better without antibiotics. Antibiotics aren't needed for many sinus infections and some ear infections. Antifungal drugs treat fungal infections.
- An antibiotic will not make you feel better if you have a virus. Respiratory viruses usually go away in a week or two without treatment. Ask your health care professional about the best way to feel better while your body fights off the virus.
- When antibiotics aren't needed, they won't help you, and the side effects could cause harm. Side effects range from very minor to very severe health problems. When you need antibiotics for a bacterial infection, the benefits usually outweigh the risk of side effects.
- Taking antibiotics can contribute to the development of antibiotic resistance. Antibiotic resistance occurs when germs like bacteria and fungi develop the ability to defeat the drugs designed to kill them. If antibiotics lose their effectiveness, then we lose the ability to treat infections, like those that lead to sepsis.
- If you need antibiotics, take them exactly as prescribed. Talk with your health care professional if you have any questions about your antibiotics.
- Do your best to stay healthy and keep others healthy.
- Antibiotics aren't always the answer. Improving the way health care professionals prescribe antibiotics, and the way we take antibiotics, help keep us healthy now, helps fight antibiotic resistance, and ensures that these life-saving antibiotics will be available for future generations.
The CDC has developed a flier that health care providers can use to promote these important messages. To download the flier, please click here.