Each year in the United States, at least 2 million people become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics, and at least 35,000 people die as a direct result, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Many more die of complications from antibiotic-resistant infections.

Antibiotics save lives and are critical tools for treating a number of common and more serious bacterial infections, but improper use of these medications can lead to drug resistance that can be life-threatening.

U.S. Antibiotics Awareness Week, which runs from Nov. 18 to 24, is an opportunity to learn about good antibiotic prescribing practices and use. Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria develop the ability to defeat the drugs designed to kill them. The CDC states that antibiotic resistance is one of the most urgent threats to the public’s health.

“Antibiotics are an essential part of combatting a number of common infections, including pneumonia and sepsis,” said State Health Commissioner Kris Box, M.D., FACOG. “But when antibiotics aren’t needed, the side effects could still cause harm.”

The CDC says at least 30 percent of the antibiotics in outpatient settings nationwide are prescribed unnecessarily. Improving the way healthcare professionals prescribe antibiotics, and the way patients use antibiotics, will help keep Hoosiers healthy, prevent fight antibiotic resistance, and ensure that these lifesaving medications will be available for future generations.

The best ways to help prevent the spread of antibiotic resistance are to:

  • Talk to your healthcare provider about measures to relieve symptoms without using antibiotics.
  • Take prescribed antibiotics exactly as directed by your healthcare provider.
  • Never pressure your healthcare provider for an antibiotic prescription.
  • Never save antibiotics for the next time you’re sick.
  • Remember that antibiotics won’t make you feel better if you have a virus.
  • Stay healthy and keep others healthy by cleaning hands, covering coughs, staying home when you are sick and getting recommended vaccines.

This is the week to be antibiotics aware for year-round smart use and best care. Visit www.cdc.gov/antibiotic-use to learn more about antibiotic prescribing and use.

Visit the Indiana Department of Health at health.in.gov or follow us on Twitter at @StateHealthIN and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/StateHealthIN.