IDPH clarifies appropriate use of antibiotics

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US Antibiotic Awareness Week is November 18-24

information provided by the Illinois Department of Public Health

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (November 21, 2019) – “Antibiotics are critical to treating many infections and saving lives, but when they are prescribed and taken unnecessarily, they can become less effective,” said Dr. Ngozi Ezike, Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH). “Antibiotics don’t work on viruses, like those that cause the common cold or the flu.”

Roughly 30% of antibiotics prescribed in medical providers’ offices and emergency rooms are not needed. The over-prescribing and misuse of antibiotics could make the bacteria they are designed to kill resistant to the drug and ineffective for treatment.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), on average, someone in the US gets an antibiotic-resistant infection every 11 seconds, and every 15 minutes someone dies.

The CDC recently released its updated Antibiotic Resistance Threats in the United States (AR Threats Report) showing prevention efforts have reduced deaths from antibiotic-resistant infections by 18 percent overall, and by nearly 30 percent in hospitals. However, without continued vigilance, this progress may be challenged by the increasing burden of some infections.

Steps to help prevent antibiotic resistance

  • Ask your health care provider for appropriate remedies when antibiotics are not indicated.
  • Do not insist on antibiotics when your healthcare provider thinks you do not need them.
  • Complete the entire course of prescribed antibiotics even after you are feeling better.
  • Stay up to date on your recommended vaccines to help prevent illness.
  • Wash your hands regularly to stop the spread of disease.

The IDPH offers this comparison to help determine when an antibiotic may be appropriate:

Do I need an antibiotic?

YES (bacteria)

  • Strep Throat
  • Tuberculosis
  • Whooping Cough
  • Urinary Tract Infection

MAYBE (bacteria or virus)

  • Bronchitis
  • Ear Infection
  • Sinus Infection

NO (virus)

  • Flu
  • Colds
  • Sore throats (except strep)

IDPH is committed to continued collaboration with partners to implement and refine the Illinois Action Plan to Prevent Healthcare-Associated Infections, and finalize the Illinois Multi-Drug Resistant Organism Surveillance Investigation and Response Plan. IDPH coordinates a regional response to identify affected patients, provide technical assistance to facilities on infection prevention and control practices, and improve communication between facilities by automatically notifying a facility when a patient known to have an antibiotic-resistant germ is admitted. IDPH will also continue to support antimicrobial stewardship by offering resources and technical assistance to health care facilities and prescribers to ensure antibiotics are appropriately used to treat infections. Preventing antibiotic resistance will help ensure these lifesaving drugs will continue to work in the future.

More information about healthcare-associated infections and antimicrobial resistance prevention in Illinois can be found on the IDPH website.