Every 15 minutes someone in the United States dies from an infection that can no loner be treated by antibiotics. According to an estimate made in a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that is equivalent to about 35,000 deaths per year; deaths that should be otherwise preventable.
Speaking about the very urgent problem of antibiotic resistance, the report focused on the United States, but the numbers are even more dire if we look at the global problem. Worldwide annual deaths of drug-resistant diseases amount to approximately 700,000 people. Most importantly, this number could jump to 10 million within the thirty years if we do not make fundamental changes today.
To be honest, experts have been warning for several years of the dangers of a post-antibiotic era: a time in which traditional antibiotics—which have worked for decades—become pretty much useless. But the worst of it is that drug-resistant superbugs will thrive, which has the potential to decimate humanity.
Unfortunately even with this knowledge, our medical establishment continues to prescribe antibiotics, even for conditions that do not actually require them. As a matter of fact, this is how we got into this mess in the first place: doctors have long prescribed antibiotics for conditions that bear symptoms similar to bacterial infections but have no bearing. Colds and the flu, for example, are both acute viral infections: antibiotics have no effect. Couple this with abundant antibiotic use in agricultural outfits—mainly livestock and poultry—and it is easy to understand the evolution of this issue.
Whether or not we have the time to improve antibiotics, the CDC now recommends a couple ways the average person can all help to assuage the problem.
For one, more people should do more to prevent infections in the first place. Eat a healthy diet and getting exercise can ensure optimal health; but it is also important to get preventative medical care like vaccinations and routine examinations.
Secondly, the CDC recommends that everyone needs to do their part to reduce their reliance on antibiotics. Recent CDC estimates, for example, suggest that 47 million antibiotics are prescribed every year for infections that do not require them. That covers about 30 percent of all antibiotic prescriptions. But while doctors should prescribe as needed (and not out of convenience), patients should learn more about acute conditions that often clear up on their own without antibiotics, and take the appropriate measures.