Be Antibiotics Aware: Smart Use, Best Care

U.S. Antibiotic Awareness Week is November 18-24

Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) officials are urging Montanans to be aware of the importance of appropriate antibiotic use during U.S. Antibiotic Awareness Week Nov. 18-24.

This is an annual observance that provides participating organizations in the state’s Antimicrobial Stewardship Program an opportunity to raise awareness about antibiotic use to combat the threat of antibiotic resistance.

DPHHS officials state that while antibiotics are a common treatment for numerous bacterial infections, they are not always the answer.

“Antibiotics do not treat the viruses that cause colds, flu, or COVID-19,” said Erika Baldry of the Infection Control and Prevention/Healthcare-Associated Infection Section (ICP/HAI) for DPHHS. “We recommend asking your healthcare provider about the most appropriate treatment for you or your loved ones’ illness. If antibiotics are not needed, ask about the best way to feel better while your body fights off the virus.”

DPHHS said there’s several steps patients, caregivers, families, and healthcare professionals can take to improve antibiotic prescribing and use. Some simple steps to take include only prescribing antibiotics when necessary and for only the shortest effective duration, completing the entire prescribed antibiotic course, and only using antibiotics prescribed to you.

Other steps that can be taken to reduce antibiotic resistance include being current on all vaccines, washing hands, keeping wounds clean, and managing chronic conditions such as diabetes.

Baldry said when antibiotics aren’t needed, they can cause side effects and lead to antibiotic resistance. “Resistance to antibiotics does not mean that the body is becoming resistant; rather, it means that bacteria develop the ability to defeat the antibiotics designed to kill them,” she said.

Some resistant bacteria may be very difficult to treat and can spread to other people. According to the Centers for Disease Control, each year in the U.S., more than 2.8 million individuals get infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

DPHHS conducts testing at the Montana Public Health Laboratory (MTPHL) for antibiotic resistant organisms submitted by Montana hospitals, specifically carbapenem-resistant organisms.

Carbapenems are a type of antibiotic and organisms resistant to these types of antibiotics are a public health concern. If an organism is carbapenem-resistant, that can limit the antibiotic options for treatment.

Antibiotic-resistant germs, including new and emerging resistance, can spread within and between healthcare facilities. These germs can cause infections in patients, called healthcare-associated infections (HAIs), and can spread to the community or environment (soil, water).

So far in 2022, 68 carbapenem-resistant organisms were submitted to the MTPHL. Out of the 68 specimens identified this year, two were identified as carbapenemase-producers making them very difficult to treat due to their capability to be resistant to many different antibiotics.

In 2021, a total of 63 carbapenem-resistant samples were submitted and one carbapenemase producer was identified.


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