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For Immediate Release: November 15, 2010
Contact: CDC Division of Media Relations
(404) 639-3286

CDC Spotlights Global Efforts to Address Antibiotic Resistance

Expands 'Get Smart' programs to hospitals and nursing homes

Antibiotic resistance is one of the world's most pressing public health threats. To bring attention to this increasing problem, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other government partners will observe its third annual Get Smart About Antibiotics Week on November 15-21, 2010. The national campaign will highlight the coordinated efforts of CDC, state and local health departments, and non-profit and for-profit partners to educate the public about antibiotic resistance and the importance of appropriate antibiotic use in both community and healthcare settings.

"Antibiotics are essential to combat life-threatening bacterial infections," says Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of CDC. "Unfortunately, misuse of antibiotics is widespread and contributes to resistance. We have to better promote appropriate use of antibiotics to preserve these life-saving tools."

Taking or prescribing antibiotics when they are not needed creates additional health risks. And, antibiotic use can lead to antibiotic resistance – when bacteria change in a way that reduces or eliminates the effectiveness of antibiotics. As resistance increases, a patient's risk of complications or death from an infection also increases. Additionally, antibiotic-resistant bacteria have the potential to spread between people and cause severe infections. Reducing unnecessary antibiotic use can reduce avoidable adverse events including Clostridium difficile infections (a potentially deadly diarrheal infection) and allergic reactions.

"Antibiotics are a shared resource – and, for some infections, are becoming a scarce resource," says Dr. Lauri Hicks, medical director for CDC's Get Smart: Know When Antibiotics Work program. "The problem is we expect antibiotics to work for every illness, but they don't. If you have a cold, antibiotics will not work for you." In conjunction with Get Smart About Antibiotics Week 2010, CDC unveiled its new Get Smart for Healthcare program to complement the existing Get Smart: Know When Antibiotics Work program. Get Smart for Healthcare will focus on improving antibiotic use in hospitals and nursing homes. The goal of the Get Smart for Healthcare program is to ensure that these facilities are using antibiotics wisely by implementing proven strategies

Data from published studies show that:

  • Approximately 50 percent of antibiotics are unnecessarily prescribed or inappropriate.
  • More than $1.1 billion are spent annually on unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions for respiratory infections in adults.
  • Antibiotic-resistant infections lead to worse outcomes for patients, including higher mortality.

The 2010 observance of Get Smart About Antibiotics Week is an international collaboration, which will coincide with European Antibiotic Awareness Day and a Canadian observance day, both scheduled for Nov. 18, 2010.

For additional information about Get Smart: Know When Antibiotics Work or Get Smart for Healthcare, please visit www.cdc.gov/getsmart or www.cdc.gov/getsmart/healthcare.

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