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The INDEPENDENT, March 19, 2009
To Your Health!
By Judy Hargis, P.A., and Audeen Wagner
What’s All the Fuss About?
In 1928 Sir Alexander Fleming discovered
that colonies of bacterium Staph aureus could
be destroyed by mold penicillium notatum. The
importance of this discovery would later lead to
the use of penicillin in the 1940s. It changed the
practice of medicine, extended our lives, and led
to treatments for illnesses and serious infections
which were considered disabling or even fatal.
Many antibiotics have been developed since that
We have become dependent on antibiotics to treat everything. We all want to
feel better. We often want a quick fix. We are quick to ask our healthcare provider
for antibiotics when we feel ill. The problem is that antibiotics treat only bacterial in-
fections. They cannot fight infections caused by viruses such as colds and the flu.
In fact, they can be counterproductive when used inappropriately. When antibiotics
are over-prescribed and over-used, they can be ineffective when we need them
most. This is due to antibiotic resistance.
What is antibiotic resistance? It happens when bacteria are repeatedly exposed
to the same antibiotics, or bacteria are left in your body after you have been taking
an antibiotic because you have not taken the full course prescribed for your infec-
tion. These bacteria can multiply and become strong enough to resist the antibiot-
ic in the future. The risk is that, when you really need an antibiotic, it may not be
able to fight the bacteria it is supposed to kill, your infection may last longer, or be-
come worse or even deadly. You can pass the resistant bacteria on to people you
come into contact with and they may end up with an infection that is hard to treat.
Every time you take an antibiotic that you don’t need or you don’t take all the an-
tibiotics prescribed for you, you increase the chance that someday you will get an
illness that is caused by a resistant bacteria.
It is important that we all become aware of this problem and work to solve it.
Health care providers can help by prescribing antibiotics appropriately and not giv-
ing in to patient pressure to prescribe them when it is not necessary. We can all be
part of the solution by not taking antibiotics to treat infections like colds and flu, by
using antibiotics only as directed by our health care provider, and not sharing an-
tibiotics with others or saving them for future illnesses. It is important to be realistic
in your expectations when visiting your provider for a sore throat, cold, earache or
sinus trouble. It is estimated that up to 50 percent of prescriptions for antibiotics
may be unnecessary.
There are organizations that are working hard to educate providers and patients
about appropriate use of antibiotics. It is important that we all become part of the
solution and educate ourselves about the consequences of not making changes in
our use of antibiotics. We are all aware of some of the disabling and deadly infec-
tions that are a result of antibiotic resistance, such as MRSA.
Remember that most upper respiratory infections are caused primarily by virus-
es and do not require an antibiotic. Most virus infections improve with rest, fluids
and symptom management. It is important to reduce the spread of cough and colds
by frequent hand washing. Make sure that you wash your hands long enough to
make a difference by singing your ABCs or the happy birthday song twice while you
wash. Remember that all you need is good old-fashioned soap and water. There
are lots of fancy antibacterial soaps on the market, but it is believed that their over-
use plays a role in resistant bacteria, too.
The discovery and development of antibiotics was an amazing achievement, but
antibiotic resistance has become a major public health challenge. Let’s all be part
of the solution!
Helpful Websites include: www.healthoregon.org/antibiotics, ( AWARE: The Ore-
gon Alliance Working for Antibiotic Resistance Education) http:// www.apua.org ( Al-
liance for the prudent use of antibiotics).
Feel free to contact us at To Your Health, c/o The Independent. Or, email us at
State Public Health Division launches a new environmental tool
The Oregon Public Health
Division announced the launch
of a new tool to help examine
the connections between envi-
ronmental hazards and dis-
ease. The Environmental Pub-
lic Health Tracking (EPHT) net-
work will, for the first time, pro-
vide access to environmental
and health information for Ore-
gon from a single source. This
web-based data query system
Energize Your Body!
Strengthen Your Muscles,
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Qi Gong Classes at the Grange
Starting March 31st
$75 for a 10 week session
$65 for Seniors!
For details call Dr. Carol McIntrye
Spring into Action! Sign Up Now!
is part of a national network led
by the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention (CDC)
that will provide similar data for
17 states across the US.
“The evidence is mounting
that pollutants in our air, water,
soil and food have an impact on
our health,” said Gail R. Shib-
ley, Administrator of the Office
of Environmental Public Health
in the Oregon Department of
Human Services Public Health
Division. “Protecting the health
of Oregonians from negative
environmental impacts is a top
priority, and the EPHT network
will help us do that.”
The Oregon EPHT network
tracks key measures of envi-
ronmental hazards, such as air
and water quality, and also po-
tentially related diseases, such
as asthma and heart attacks.
EPHT provides access to this
information in a dynamic, web-
based system that allows for
the linkage of these measures
for specific geographic areas in
Momentum for a nationwide
system like EPHT began in
2000, when the Pew Environ-
mental Health Commission not-
ed an “environmental health
gap,” a lack of basic informa-
tion needed to document links
between environmental haz-
ards and disease. That obser-
vation came in part because
the Commission found that the
environmental public health
system did not have the capa-
bility to respond adequately to
Since 2006, CDC has fund-
ed 17 states – including Ore-
gon – and New York City to
build state-based tracking net-
For more information, go to