With another outbreak in the news recently, superbugs have become a major cause for concern. But what are they? Understanding how these types of bacteria spread as well as good antibiotic practices can help you protect yourself.
What Is a Superbug?
A superbug is a type of bacteria that is resistant to antibiotic drugs, which normally cure bacterial viruses and infections. The first antibiotic was penicillin, released in the 1940s and while new drugs have been developed, not enough antibiotics are available to address all forms of bacteria. The problem is antibiotics are also prescribed in excess, allowing patients and the bacteria within their bodies to become immune to them.
Contracting an antibiotic-resistant superbug can be fatal and they spread quickly. Once inside the body, they begin to rapidly replicate, reproducing in as little as 30 minutes, according to the Harvard Gazette. Treatments, if available, can be dangerous to the patient. The most common forms of superbugs are Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE), Clostridium difficile (C. difficile), Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and vancomycin-resistant Enterococci. These bacteria can be present inside the body and are passed on from skin-to-skin contact as well as shared objects.
How Do They Spread?
As previously mentioned, these types of bacteria are passed on by contact with an infected individual or an item or surface they have touched. While they can be spread at home, school or work, unfortunately, hospitals and other healthcare facilities are the most common breeding grounds. Anything they touch and anyone they come in contact with is susceptible. For example, if someone with a strain of antibiotic-resistant bacteria enters a hospital, they must be quarantined to prevent them from passing it on. Special care must also be taken to sterilize and/or dispose of any equipment used for their care.
There are steps you can take to help prevent antibiotic resistance as well as contracting a type of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
Try to avoid taking antibiotics when there are other options, especially for a viral infection like the flu or common cold.
If you're prescribed an antibiotic, follow instructions exactly and discard any unused medication.
Don't take anyone else's prescribed antibiotic.
Clean shared surfaces and those used for preparing and eating food in your home regularly.
Always wash hands with soap and water. You should sing "Happy Birthday" twice before turning off the water.
Ask your physician to wash their hands before examining you using the sink in your room.
Keep your immune system strong by consuming a balanced diet.
Always pay attention to how you're feeling while on a prescription medication and address any adverse side effects with your doctor. If you leave a healthcare facility and begin to feel ill, seek medical help immediately.
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