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DHSS Press Release

Rita Landgraf, Secretary
Jill Fredel, Director of Communications
302-255-9047, Cell 302-357-7498

Date: November 16, 2011


Nov. 14-20: Get Smart About Antibiotics Week

A vital weapon in fighting disease is losing its power and Delawareans have an important role to play. For years antibiotics have saved countless lives by stopping bacterial diseases in their tracks. Today, Delaware's Division of Public Health (DPH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) agree that antibiotic resistance is one of the world's most pressing public health threats. During "Get Smart About Antibiotics Week," Nov. 14-20, and all year, DPH urges health care providers and consumers to use antibiotics selectively.

"Delaware health care providers are required to report nearly 100 diseases to DPH - from anthrax to yellow fever. Many are caused by bacteria. DPH epidemiologists monitor the occurrence of these diseases to identify increases and changes. Due to concern about antibiotic-resistant illnesses worldwide, DPH added several resistant diseases to the mandatory reporting list in 2006. DPH epidemiologists reported 55 cases of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, (MRSA), 10 cases of Vancomycin-resistant Enterococci (VRE), and six cases of extended spectrum -Lactamase infection (ESBL) in 2011 to date. Reported cases underestimate the actual number of antibiotic resistant infections that occur because many do not reach the attention of health care providers or samples are not collected for laboratory analysis.

Among the causes for the rise in resistant diseases are consumer demand to receive antibiotics for most illnesses, and not using the medication as instructed. Research shows there is a public perception that antibiotics cure all infections, creating the expectation that they be prescribed for illnesses such as the common cold and flu. However, because these conditions are viral infections, antibiotics will have no effect.

"Antibiotics kill bacteria and bacterial infections, not viral infections-a critical but overlooked distinction," said Dr. Karyl Rattay, DPH director. "Taking an antibiotic when it is not needed promotes the unnecessary possibility that the bacteria will become antibiotic resistant."

DPH pharmacist Kevin Musto, R.Ph., reminds the public to complete any antibiotic medication that is prescribed. "Don't save it, don't share it. Finish the medication as prescribed. Remember, it is the last few pills that kill the toughest germs," he said. "Bacteria are very smart organisms. They learn from what you do or don't do. Its goal is to survive and grow. We have been encouraging resistance by misusing antibiotics, and it could present a big problem for us."

Efforts to reduce the unnecessary use of antibiotics may mean that your doctor will not be prescribing antibiotics if you have the cold or flu. Here are some tips to fight a cold or flu if instead without antibiotics:

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Delaware Health and Social Services is committed to improving the quality of the lives of Delaware's citizens by promoting health and well-being, fostering self-sufficiency, and protecting vulnerable populations.