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CDC’s ‘Get Smart Week’ Aims to Outsmart Bacteria

Outsmarting the enemy will take a team effort. That's the message of the "Get Smart About Antibiotics" campaign from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It aims to educate the public, doctors and agricultural producers that antibiotics need to be used more judiciously, in order to reduce the spread of antibiotic-resistant infections in humans.

The medical director for the CDC's "Get Smart" project, Lauri Hicks, says there is a new sense of urgency, because resistant bacteria are spreading rapidly. They're connected to the overuse and misuse of antibiotics, and the rate of new antibiotic discoveries has slowed almost to a halt.

"Now, common infections may be difficult to treat. When you really need an antibiotic, it may not work."

A type of antibiotic-resistant pneumonia only found in one state in 2001, Klebsiella pneumoniae carbapenemase, has now spread to 35 states, including Wyoming.

Veterinarian Gail Hansen, a senior officer with the Pew Campaign on Human Health and Industrial Farming, says getting farmers and ranchers on board with using fewer routine antibiotics for food animal production is just as urgent. She adds that 70 percent of the antibiotics sold in the U.S. are used on industrial farms to help animals grow faster and stay healthy in crowded conditions.

"We've seen bacteria that have become resistant to antibiotics - bacteria that are found predominantly in animals - that then get into our food supply and make people sick. That's happening."

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