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RIDOH and CDC Urging Rhode Islanders to Be Antibiotics Aware

The Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to remind Rhode Island patients, families, and healthcare professionals to Be Antibiotics Aware.

Antibiotics were one of the most significant scientific developments of the 20th century. They have made infections that were once fatal routinely treatable, while also allowing for other medical advances, like cancer chemotherapy and organ transplants. However, the overuse of antibiotics, and the use of antibiotics when they are not appropriate, has resulted in many bacteria no longer responding to antibiotic treatment. Each year in the United States, at least 2 million people get infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria. At least 23,000 people die as a result.

In Rhode Island, work to ensure the responsible, appropriate use of antibiotics is being led by the Rhode Island Antimicrobial Stewardship and Environmental Cleaning Task Force. This Task Force is co-chaired by Rebecca Reece, MD, a Medical Consultant to RIDOH's Division of Preparedness, Response, Infectious Diseases, and Emergency Medical Services; and Kerry LaPlante, Pharm.D., FCCP, a Professor at the University of Rhode Island's College of Pharmacy.

"When someone takes the time out of their day to go to the doctor, they want to walk out with a prescription that is going to make them feel better. But antibiotics are not always the answer. In fact, they can sometimes make things even worse," said Dr. Reece. "By taking antibiotics when doing so is not appropriate, a person puts themselves at risk for serious side effects while also undermining our ability to use antibiotics as a life-saving tool for future generations."

"Improving the ways we prescribe and take antibiotics can help keep us healthy now, help fight antibiotic resistance, and ensure that life-saving antibiotics will be available for the future," said Dr. LaPlante. "Patients, healthcare providers, and healthcare facility administrators all have a role to play in making Rhode Island antibiotics aware!"

The outreach being done in Rhode Island this week is coinciding with U.S. Antibiotic Awareness Week and World Antibiotic Awareness Week (November 13th -19th). RIDOH's Be Antibiotics Aware campaign will continue through the winter to remind Rhode Islanders that antibiotics are not the answer for viruses. The Be Antibiotics Aware material being shared includes resources to help healthcare professionals improve antibiotic prescribing and material to educate the public. The material for the public includes the message that all Rhode Islanders should: Take prescribed antibiotics exactly as told by healthcare providers. Never share medication. Never pressure a doctor into giving antibiotics that were not recommended. Ask your healthcare provider if there are steps you can take to feel better and get relief from your symptoms without using antibiotics. Get a flu shot and other immunizations to keep you from getting an illness that might develop into a bacterial infection. Wash your hands, and take precautions to avoid getting infections which might require antibiotics.

Antibiotics do not work on viruses, such as colds and the flu virus, or runny noses. Antibiotics are only needed for treating certain infections caused by bacteria. Any time antibiotics are used, they can cause side effects and lead to antibiotic resistance. If antibiotics are used when they shouldn't be used, they won't help the individual, and the individual can still experience these side effects. Common side effects range from rashes and yeast infections to severe health problems like Clostridium difficile infection (also called C. difficile or C. diff).

In Rhode Island, many healthcare facilities signed a letter of commitment to ensure safe prescribing and antimicrobial stewardship programs at their facilities. A list of these members of Rhode Island's Antimicrobial Stewardship Honor Roll is available online.

To learn more about antibiotic prescribing and use, visit www.health.ri.gov/antibiotics and www.cdc.gov/antibiotic-use

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