Harrisburg– Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine on Thursday reminded Pennsylvanians that antibiotics only fight bacteria, not viruses like COVID-19, and warned that overprescribing antibiotics can decrease their ability to fight infections.
“Antibiotics are some of the most powerful tools for fighting life-threatening infections; however, they can also be overprescribed,” Dr. Levine said. “It is important to remember that antibiotics only work to kill bacteria, not viruses like COVID-19. They will not make you feel better if you have a virus and taking them when not needed can decrease their ability to fight infections.”
An antibiotic is a medicine that kills or stops the growth of bacteria. They are essential tools used to treat many common and more serious infections, like those that can lead to sepsis or meningitis.
When antibiotics are used incorrectly, it can lead to antibiotic resistance. Antibiotic resistance does not mean the body is becoming resistant to antibiotics; it means bacteria that live in and on our bodies develop the ability to fight the antibiotics designed to kill them. When bacteria become resistant, antibiotics cannot fight them, causing bacteria to multiply. More than 2.8 million antibiotic-resistant infections occur in the United States each year.
Always make sure you take antibiotics when needed, don’t ask for antibiotics to treat or prevent viruses, like those that cause the cold, flu or COVID-19, and ask your healthcare provider how to feel better without antibiotics. If your healthcare provider determines that your illness requires antibiotics, take them as prescribed. In addition, make sure you are up to date on all your vaccinations, including the seasonal flu vaccine.
“If you have a cold, the flu, or any other virus such as COVID-19, antibiotics will not work for you,” Dr. Levine said. “It is essential that we take proper steps to prevent getting sick in the first place so we can reduce the amount of antibiotics used and reduce the likelihood that resistant bacteria forms.”