As snow covers Central New York in the months ahead, doctors are likely to see more coughs, colds, and sore throats.
But, hospitals are facing a growing challenge fighting some outbreaks due to antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Studies show millions of unnecessary prescriptions for antibiotics are written in doctor’s offices and emergency rooms each year.
“Although they are great at fighting bacterial illnesses, antibiotics don’t fight against viral illnesses,” explains urgent care physician Dr. Louanne Giangreco.
Every year she sees patients who have bad reactions to antibiotics they really didn’t need.
In some cases, those patients improperly began using leftover antibiotics from an old prescription, which may help bacteria develop a resistance.
“Different antibiotics have different time courses for different conditions,” Giangreco says. “So, we want to make sure we are taking them so that you are not just killing off some of the bacteria, and allowing some of the ones that weren’t easily killed off in the beginning – to thrive.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control, at least 2 million people become infected with antibiotic resistant bacteria each year and 23,000 die, unable to fully treat their illness.
Even if someone uses antibiotics properly, they’re not protected.
Everyone faces the risk of coming into contact with antibiotic-resistant bacteria at the mall, work or school.
But, the number of antibiotics developed and approved for treatment dropped steadily over three decades, leaving doctors with fewer choices to kill the stronger bacteria and treat infections.
Many hospitals in New York State have programs to prevent unnecessary prescriptions, but the numbers are much lower in some neighboring states…and bacteria doesn’t recognize borders.
Giangreco advises anyone who needs to throw out an old prescription to find a safe disposal site.
“If you flush them or put them back into the water supply, it goes back into our environment and leads to resistance as well,” she adds.