Monday, October 14, 2013

Untreatable: Today’s Drug-Resistant Health Threats

Untreatable: Today’s Drug-Resistant Health Threats
A release issued by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on September 16, 2013, is based on their report titled, "Antibiotic Resistance Threats in the United States, 2013." The report sounds the alarm about the growing problem of drug resistant bacteria caused by years of overuse of antibiotics.
The CDC states, "Each year in the United States, at least 2 million people become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and at least 23,000 people die each year as a direct result of these infections."  The report also estimates that, "...in the United States, antibiotic resistance adds $20 billion in excess direct health care costs, with additional costs to society for lost productivity as high as $35 billion a year."
As a result, the CDC has instituted a warning system much like the terrorist threat system in the U.S. However, instead of the system being based upon colors, (green-blue-yellow-orange-red), the system has three levels defined as, "concerning, serious, and urgent."
The CDC release gives an overview explanation of the problem by noting, "The use of antibiotics is the single most important factor leading to antibiotic resistance around the world. Antibiotics are among the most commonly prescribed drugs used in human medicine. However, up to half of antibiotic use in humans and much of antibiotic use in animals is unnecessary or inappropriate."
The growth of antibiotic resistant bacteria is due to the rampant overuse of antibiotics, not only in humans, but also largely in livestock used for human consumption. In a September 18, 2013, article in Time, Dr. David Wallinga of Healthy Food Action states, "CDC has (quietly) said before that antibiotic overuse in food animals helps worsen the epidemic of infections from antibiotic resistant bacteria. But this important report practically shouts it from the mountain top."
A September 17, 2013, CNN article on this same report cited the Missouri Department of Health who explained the problem by saying, "Every time a person takes antibiotics, sensitive bacteria are killed, but resistant germs may be left to grow and multiply. Repeated and improper uses of antibiotics are primary causes of the increase in drug-resistant bacteria."

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