We are in the middle of International Infection Prevention Week, which is an awareness campaign lead by the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) designed to stimulate interest in and highlight the importance of infection prevention.
This year's theme is focused on antibiotic resistance. Each year in the United States alone, approximately two million people become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics, and at least 23,000 people die each year as a direct result of these types of infections.1 Plus, many more people die from other conditions that were complicated by an antibiotic-resistant infection. Antibiotic-resistant infections have been estimated to cost the US healthcare system more than $20 billion annually.2
Science indicates the root cause of antibiotic resistance is over-prescription and overuse of antibiotics by humans and in animals. Increasingly, antibiotic overuse results in the inability to prevent and control infections as certain bacteria develop defenses against entire classes of antibiotic compounds. We need to widely deploy prophylactic solutions that prevent the need for antibiotics and therefore reduce the burden of resistant organisms across communities and healthcare settings.
One prevention approach to reduce the need for antibiotics is effective hand hygiene. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) consistently state that hand hygiene is the number one way to prevent the spread of infection. Staying healthy and preventing infections from happening is a very effective way to reduce the use of antibiotics. This is why practicing good hand hygiene - handwashing and hand sanitizing - is so important to overcoming the challenge of antibiotic resistance.
It is important for healthcare workers and the public to learn when and how it is appropriate to use antibiotics, as well as prevention measures, like hand hygiene, in helping us stay healthy and well.
This week, I encourage you to share the message of good hand hygiene and its role in helping us overcome antibiotic resistance. Learn more about International Infection Prevention Week on APIC's website.