09 February 2011

Antibiotic overuse in humans and food animals costing health industry billions

Got a medicine cabinet full of antibiotics you just didn’t feel the need to finish taking? Have you begged your family doctor for a Z pack even after she just finished telling you your runny nose and stuffy head were viral? Without realizing it, you could be adding to the bacteria resistant diseases becoming more prevalent on this tired planet.

Public health advocates, environmentalists and even many doctors are seriously concerned that our combined impatience at getting sick and wanting drugs to fix the problem immediately is creating illnesses that are more serious, costly and last longer.

The Alliance for the Prudent Use of Antibiotics, a nonprofit that conducts research around the world on antibiotic resistance, says the health industry has been hit with $16 billion more in extra costs as patients demand more and more antibiotics when they’re really not needed. When we take unneeded antibiotics, bacteria starts to develop greater resistance and will be even stronger when it infects its next victim. Compounding matters, farm animals are given antibiotics indiscriminately to stave off disease, crowding and poor sanitation as well as help the animals grow faster.

“The routine use of antibiotics in food animals presents a serious and growing threat to human health because it creates new strains of dangerous antibiotic-resistant bacteria, reports the Pew Campaign on Human Health and Industrial Farming.

The solutions are simple. The next time you feel the achy symptoms of a cold coming on, reach for some echinacea and zinc lozenges rather than antibiotics and take a nap, for a change. Our bodies get sick when our immune systems have had enough so treat yourself better and slow down for a few days. We can also support Pew with new legislation its trying to push through into law that would limit seven types of antibiotics routinely given to animals by calling our senators and representatives. Lastly, support local organic farmers and limit animal foods from your diet. This is a great opportunity to go vegan!

Kathryn Lorusso
Kathryn is a former journalist and English teacher who now counsels and mediates teenage drama on a daily basis in the Dallas, Ft. Worth metroplex. Time away from school is spent cooking up new macrobiotic/vegan specialties, writing various blogs and newsletters and taking as many bikram yoga classes as possible.

Photo credit:cc:flickr.com/photos/brittanygreene