Flu season highlights antibiotics use


Special to the Telegram

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Many people believe that antibiotics are essential for fighting colds, flu and other illnesses.

While it’s true that antibiotics are powerful medicines used for treating a number of common bacterial infections such as pneumonia and for life-threatening conditions including sepsis, they do not fight infections caused by viruses, like flu and colds.

Antibiotics don’t help with some common bacterial infections, either — including most cases of bronchitis, many sinus infections, some ear infections and runny noses — the problems cold weather usually brings.

Neither plant nor animal, bacteria are living microorganisms capable of change. Without a full awareness of bacteria’s potential for adaptation, the worldwide medical community began overprescribing antibiotics and this practice continued for years. Bacteria soon began developing resistance to the benefits of antibiotics, known simply as “antibiotics resistance.” To continue this practice would be to risk the future use of these incredible drugs where they are most needed.

Nash UNC Health Care joins the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in encouraging patients, families and all health care professionals to learn about the safe use of antibiotics. In an effort to provide education and leadership for hospital staff and patients about antibiotics, the antimicrobial stewardship team at Nash UNC Health Care has partnered with the Duke Antimicrobial Stewardship Outreach Network.

In addtion, Nash Infection Prevention Nurses, the Microbiology Lab, Quality & Patient Safety personnel, all Nash UNC Employee Health providers and physicians are working to optimize how antibiotics are used within our hospital and community.

Nationwide, at least two million people get infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria each year and 23,000 of them will die because bacteria will not respond to the antibiotics. In fact, antibiotic resistance is now one of the most urgent threats to public health.

“To further complicate matters, if antibiotics are used when not needed, they won’t help — and the side effects can still be harmful. Common side effects range from rashes and yeast infections to severe health problems like Clostridium difficile infection — also called C. difficile or C. diff — which causes diarrhea that can lead to severe colon damage and even death,” said pharmacist Luke Heuts, clinical coordinator of Pharmacy Services at Nash UNC Health Care and co-chair of the antimicrobial stewardship team with Dr. Emma Castillo.

As a patient, if you need antibiotics, it is important that you take them exactly as prescribed. Patients and families can talk to their health care professional if they have any questions about their antibiotics or if they develop side effects, especially diarrhea, since that could be C. difficile, which needs to be treated.

Improving the way antibiotics are used helps keep us healthy now, helps fight antibiotic resistance and ensures that life-saving antibiotics will be available for future use. We can all stay healthy and keep others healthy by cleaning our hands, covering our coughs, staying home when sick and getting recommended vaccines.