Antibiotic resistance is a global threat to human health. Antibiotic resistance happens when germs do not react to an antibiotic. Many infections are becoming harder to treat. This is because the drugs used to treat them are no longer working. Antibiotic resistance can lead to higher health care costs and longer hospital stays.

Overuse and misuse of antibiotics encourage antibiotic resistance. It is important to remember that antibiotics treat bacterial infections. They do not treat viral infections. For example, antibiotics can treat strep throat. This is because bacteria cause strep throat. Antibiotics do not work for the flu because a virus causes the flu.

Taking antibiotics when you do not need them is risky. It can cause harmless bacteria to become resistant. We need to act now before it is too late.

The public can help by:

Taking antibiotics exactly as your doctor prescribes.

Never sharing or using leftover antibiotics.

Washing your hands.

Avoiding sick people.

Practicing safe sex.

Keeping vaccinations up to date.

Health professionals can help by:

Only prescribing antibiotics when needed.

Making sure your hands, environment and tools are clean.

Educating patients on antibiotics and the dangers of misuse.

Talking to patients about preventing infection, including hand washing, safe sex and vaccination.

For more information, please visit www.cdc.gov/antibiotic-use/ community.

Jennifer Liao, PharmD

antibiotic resistance coordinator, Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention

Augusta