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News Releases

DHEC Encourages South Carolinians to Guard Against the Flu to Avoid the Unnecessary Use of Antibiotics

Nov. 19, 2019

COLUMBIA, S.C. —  This week is U.S. Antibiotic Awareness Week and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) is encouraging South Carolinians to get their annual flu shot to avoid illnesses that could lead to the unnecessary use of antibiotics.

“Many healthcare providers prescribe antibiotics for common flu symptoms such as runny nose and cough,” said Dr. Linda Bell, M.D., State Epidemiologist and DHEC’s Director of the Bureau of Communicable Disease Prevention and Control. “By preventing the flu, your risk of receiving an unnecessary antibiotic prescription is decreased during flu season.”

The flu is a serious respiratory illness that can also lead to an increased risk for viral and bacterial pneumonia. While antibiotics have no effect on viruses like the flu, getting the flu shot can protect you from unnecessary antibiotics. By protecting yourself from the flu, you are also protecting yourself from other serious respiratory illnesses and additional antibiotics needed to combat those illnesses.

In addition to reminding people to get their flu shot, DHEC is promoting Antibiotic Awareness Week with a variety of activities, including sharing educational tools with healthcare partners and constituents.

Each year, over 2 million people in the United States become infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria and 23,000 will die as a result. Certain bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotics used to treat the infections that they cause. Unfortunately, few new antibiotics are being developed. This has resulted in a decrease in the ability to treat many infections.

“Although antibiotics save lives, they are not always the answer,” Dr. Bell said. “Taking antibiotics for any reason can lead to increased bacterial resistance in the future, so it is very important to take the right drug at the right dose for the right amount of time.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, up to 50 percent of antibiotics are given for an incorrect dosage or duration. Many antibiotics are given when patients expect a prescribed antibiotic for illnesses like the common cold, flu or other minor upper respiratory infections that antibiotics are not helpful for. The unnecessary use of antibiotics contributes to the development of resistant bacteria and these bacteria can be passed from one person to another causing infections that are more difficult to treat.

To learn more about South Carolina’s efforts to reduce antibiotic resistance, visit DHEC’s website.


Note to editors: DHEC will offer an infectious disease expert for interviews to discuss the flu vaccine and South Carolina’s efforts to reduce antibiotics resistance on Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019.


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