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Ohio Health Expert: Threat from “Superbugs” Continues

PHOTO: Medical experts say superbugs and other bacterial infections are often caused by the overuse of antibiotics and continue to be a significant public health threat. Credit:CDC/Amanda Mills.
PHOTO: Medical experts say superbugs and other bacterial infections are often caused by the overuse of antibiotics and continue to be a significant public health threat. Credit:CDC/Amanda Mills.
November 19, 2013

COLUMBUS, Ohio – It's been labeled a major blooming public health crisis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), but many people in Ohio and across the nation still aren't getting the message about the dangers of improper antibiotic use.

Dr. Mary DiOrio, State Epidemiologist at the Ohio Department of Health, says overuse of antibiotics over time has created antibiotic-resistant infections, or so-called superbugs.

"Some of these bacteria, when they've been exposed to certain antibiotics, develop a resistance and then these bacteria will no longer be able to be killed by the certain antibiotic,” she explains. “So then we have to look to maybe using other antibiotics to treat the infections that may be caused by these resistant bacteria."

According to the CDC, more than 2 million people get antibiotic-resistant infections each year, and at least 23,000 die because current drugs no longer stop their infections.

This is Get Smart About Antibiotics Week, and health leaders are educating patients and doctors about proper antibiotic use, which includes taking antibiotics only when really necessary and preventing infections in the first place through proper hand washing.

DiOrio says antibiotics are too often prescribed for things they can't treat, such as colds or other viral infections, which makes them less effective against bacteria.

"People should be aware that if they do go see their physician and their physician believes they have a viral infection that doesn't need an antibiotic, that is appropriate and they should follow the guidance that they're given," she explains.

The surge of superbugs is also linked to the overuse of antibiotics in farm animals, and DiOrio says national leaders are examining the issue.

"USDA and FDA have some recommendations out to agricultural industry about what's the appropriate use of antibiotics in animals," she says.

According to government estimates, 70 percent of the antibiotics used in the United States are given to animals to ward off disease, but some say it's actually unnecessary.


Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH