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A Closer Look at Antibiotic Resistance

Tuesday, November 19, 2019 4:15 PM

Antibiotic resistance is one of the most urgent threats to public health, according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Be Antibiotics Aware, a national educational effort from the CDC, will take place Nov. 18-24 and the goal is to highlight the importance of Antibiotic Stewardship.

More than 2.8 million antibiotic-resistant infections occur in the U.S. each year, and more than 35,000 people die as a result. In addition, 223,900 cases of Clostridioides difficile occurred in 2017 and at least 12,800 people died.

Antibiotic Resistance

“While we have decreased the use of antibiotics over the last five years across the country, there is still a need to further reduce the use of broad-spectrum antibiotics,” said Ellen Acree, MD, Associate Medical Director of Antimicrobial Stewardship for NorthShore. “We're trying to protect our community from the serious dangers of increased antibiotic resistance.”

Antibiotics save lives and are critical for treating many common infections, however, the CDC estimates that at least 30% of the antibiotics in U.S. outpatient settings are prescribed unnecessarily. When bacteria evolve to defeat the drugs designed to kill them, antibiotic resistance happens. According to the CDC, as many as 2 million people a year in the United States become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and thousands of them die as a direct result.

Sometimes patients have doubts when they are told their illness is most likely a virus and antibiotics would not help, said Dr. Acree. That’s why it’s important to make a contingency plan with your doctor before you leave the office so you know what to do and who to reach out to if symptoms fail to improve.

“Don’t feel like you’re leaving the office without a plan on how to handle things,” Dr. Acree said. “Talk to your physician about what you can do at home for symptom relief, the red flags for a bacterial infection and what you should do if you don’t get better in a few days.”

Bacterial and viral infections can cause similar symptoms, such as fever, coughing, upper respiratory illness, vomiting or diarrhea.

Your physician can help by listening to your medical history, doing a physical exam or order blood, urine or a culture test to identify bacteria or viruses.