Antibiotics can save lives, but they can do more harm than good if used too much.

Tristan O’Driscoll

U.S. Antibiotic Awareness Week is an annual one-week observance held each year from Nov. 18 -24 that raises awareness of the importance of appropriate antibiotic use to combat the threat of antibiotic resistance.

Antibiotics aren’t always the answer. Improving how we prescribe and take antibiotics will help keep us healthy now and ensures these life-saving tools are available for future generations.

According to the CDC, antibiotic resistance happens when germs, such as bacteria and fungi, develop the ability to defeat the drugs designed to kill them. Each year in the United States, more than 2.8 million infections from bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics occur and more than 35,000 people die as a direct result.

Many sick patients, especially with COVID-19 might think they need antibiotics to treat the virus. However, according to the World Health Organization, antibiotics will not work to treat COVID-19.

The virus that causes COVID-19 is in a family of viruses called coronaviridae. Antibiotics do not work against viruses.

Some people who become ill with COVID-19 can also develop a bacterial infection as a complication. In this case, antibiotics may be recommended by a health care provider. However, a study from the University of Michigan that looked at 38 Michigan hospitals found that less than 5 percent of hospitalized patients for COVID-19 also had a bacterial infection.

Overall, one should talk with their health care professional if they have questions about antibiotics.

Tristian O’Driscoll is an Aspirus System antimicrobial steward coordinator.