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Front Page » March 6, 2003 » Health & Fitness » The battle against antibiotic resistance
Published 4,066 days ago

The battle against antibiotic resistance


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By KEN LARSON
Sun Advocate publisher

These self care guides are available to the general public from IMPART and local health care professionals.

High rates of antibiotic resistance in both children and adults have been found in rural Utah and Idaho

For instance four out of 10 children in most communities carry disease-causing bacteria? And the fact is 40percent of that bacteria is resistant to antibiotics? If this sounds threatening, it should. This is what is being discovered all around the country including Price. Antibiotic resistant infections can be deadly, especially for young children and the elderly. In addition, resistant infections cost American citizens $30 billion dollars in extra health care each year.

In an effort to fight antibiotic resistance, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have funded researchers at the University of Utah to implement the Intermountain Project on Antimicrobial Resistance and Therapy (IMPART). The aim of IMPART is to study and monitor the spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria throughout Utah and Idaho. In cooperation with pharmacies, clinics, and community members, the IMPART study team recently tested children in rural areas for resistant bacteria. They found that 41percent of the bacteria found in healthy children were resistant to antibiotics. The study also found that children were more likely to have a resistant form of bacteria if they had recently taken antibiotics or if a sibling had recently taken antibiotics.

One of the most important things that can be done to slow antibiotic resistance is to avoid unnecessary antibiotic use. The CDC has estimated that up to 50percent of antibiotic prescriptions are unnecessary. This means that doctors frequently prescribe and patients pay for medications that are not needed. People who take antibiotics for colds, flu, or bronchitis feel just as sick for just as long as those who don't. In other words, antibiotics will not reduce the length or severity of viral infections.

Here are some tips suggested by doctors and the researchers with IMPART to protect individuals and families from antibiotic resistant infections.

•Don't use antibiotics for viruses like colds, bronchitis, and the flu.

•Don't request antibiotics from your doctor.

•Throw away unused antibiotics

•Never save or share antibiotics

•Take antibiotic prescriptions precisely as directed by the doctor.

Continued misuse of antibiotics will produce bacteria resistant to more and more drugs. Unless something is done soon this cycle will continue until there are no longer any antibiotics available to treat bacterial infections.

Antibiotic overuse is a worldwide health concern, but combating the problem begins with the individual.

Many people go to the doctor expecting to get antibiotics. After all, most people want to go home with a medication that will make them feel better. When people have colds or the flu they can feel absolutely awful, and become desperate for something to take away the misery. What many people don't know, however, is that antibiotics will only work for bacterial infections. Antibiotics do not reduce the length or severity of viral infections such as colds, the flu, and bronchitis. Unfortunately, many antibiotics prescribed in the U.S. are being used to treat viral infections. This overuse of antibiotics is one of the major causes behind these deadly strains of antibiotic resistant bacteria.

Common illnesses that antibiotics won't help

Colds

Caused by viruses and will not respond to antibiotics

  • Common Symptoms include:
  • Stuffy or runny nose with clear, yellow, or green mucus
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Headache or body aches
  • Symptoms last about 1 week for adults, 2 weeks for kids
  • Cough may last 3 weeks
  • See your doctor if fever is over 101 F, severe ear pain, or is unusually high.

Ear Infections

  • Many ear infections are caused by a virus and will not respond to antibiotics
  • Most ear infections last 1 to 2 weeks
  • See your doctor if you have fluid draining from the ear, intense pain, or swelling around the ear

Bronchitis or "Chest Cold"

  • Caused by a virus and will not respond to antibiotics
  • Bronchitis is just another name for a cold with coughing
  • See your doctor if you have difficulty breathing, fever > 101 F for more then 2 days, or symptoms that last for more then 2 weeks without improvement

    Sinusitis

    • More than likely caused by a virus and will not respond to antibiotics
    • See your doctor if your symptoms become worse after seven days

      Sore Throats

      • Most sore throats are caused by a virus and will not respond to antibiotics
      • Most sore throats last 3 to 5 days
      • Strep-throat, which can only be diagnosed with a throat culture, is a bacterial infection and needs antibiotics
      • See your doctor for a possible throat culture for these symptoms
      • A fever greater then 101 F
      • Contact with someone who has strep throat
      • No cough or congestion
      • Tender neck

Studies have found that patients who go to the doctor expecting an antibiotic are more likely to get an antibiotic prescription, even if they don't need one. These studies have also shown that some doctors will agree to prescribe antibiotics for viral infections to keep their patients satisfied. When pressed for time, these doctors may feel that it is easier to write a prescription for antibiotics than take the time to explain why antibiotics would not be useful in a given situation.

The key to fighting antibiotic resistance on a personal level is to communicate well with the doctor. Anytime a person goes to the doctor they should walk away with four important questions answered.

•Is my illness caused by a virus or bacteria?

•When should I expect to feel better?

•When should I call your office or come back if I'm not feeling better?

•What can I do at home to feel better?

By getting the answers to these questions, people can help in the fight against antibiotic resistance by avoiding unnecessary use. Just knowing that antibiotics will not help a viral infection is a step in the right direction.

Viruses and bacteria cause most common infections. Bacterial infections, such as strep throat and pneumonia, can be treated with antibiotics, which are powerful medicines specifically designed to fight bacteria. Infections caused by viruses include colds, flu, bronchitis (which is also known as a chest cold), and most ear and sinus infections. Unlike bacterial infections, viral illnesses do not respond to antibiotics. Viral infections are typically eliminated by the immune system within two to three weeks. When a virus causes an illness, it is often best to treat the symptoms with over-the-counter cold and cough remedies.

It is important to determine the cause of an illness in order to ensure proper treatment is given. There are a few ways to help distinguish whether an illness is bacterial or viral. Doctors in the Price area may have a guide or booklet to help people decide if their illness is more likely to be viral or bacterial.

These self-care guides contain a chart outlining the symptoms of common illnesses. After consulting the chart and determining the likely cause of an illness, individuals will find treatment suggestions to relieve discomfort and an estimate of how long they can expect to be ill. These guides can be a valuable resource in better understanding the cause of illnesses and in guiding people to help themselves or a family member feel better.

The fact is, long held beliefs regarding the use of antibiotics have changed drastically in recent years. Bacteria are becoming resistant to the antibiotics once used to treat them and the discovery that antibiotic resistant bacteria are on the rise concerns many doctors.

In fact, the CDC, the World Bank, and the World Health Organization (WHO) consider antibiotic resistance a high priority, and spend millions of dollars each year to combat the problem. Many people today fear the impending threat of bioterrorism, but a hidden biological danger of our own making (antibiotic resistance) is already growing in every community.

This past week, health care professionals from IMPART visited the Carbon County area and visited with almost all health care officials and providers. They have provided materials and pamphlets that those professionals can provide to clients.

If your doctor or health care professional does not have these guides, you can get one provided by the Intermountain Project on Antimicrobial Resistance and Therapy (IMPART) by calling 1-801-585-7067.


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