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DHS news release

Jan. 31, 2005


Contact: Bonnie Widerburg (503) 731-4180


Technical contact: Ann Thomas, M.D., (503) 731-4024


Public transit awareness effort encourages safe antibiotics use


A public awareness effort reminding people that antibiotics don’t work for colds and flu started appearing last week on Portland's MAX light rail cars.


The English- and Spanish-language messages are sponsored by the Oregon Alliance Working for Antibiotic Resistance Education (AWARE), are paid for by federal funds and will run during the remainder of cold and flu season.


"This is the time of year when waiting rooms are crowded with people wanting relief from a winter illness," said Mel Kohn, M.D., state epidemiologist in the Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS). "But patients need to know that besides not helping with a cold or flu, antibiotics can lead to unwanted side effects."


Some side effects such as vomiting and diarrhea may be only unpleasant, Kohn said. But others such as allergic reactions can be far more serious and, in rare cases, life-threatening.


Kohn said an even more important reason to avoid unnecessary antibiotics use this winter is the increasing problem of drug-resistant bacteria. Antibiotic overuse encourages development of new strains of infectious disease that can be more expensive, more difficult or even impossible to treat.


"Antibiotic resistance is an important public health problem," Kohn said.

Oregon AWARE encourages consumers to use antibiotics safely and to take protective measures year-round:

  • Use antibiotics only under medical supervision. Never share antibiotics, take leftover antibiotics or use them without a prescription.
  • If you are prescribed an antibiotic, take every dose as directed.
  • Cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough to keep from spreading infection to others.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently to keep from getting sick.


DHS launched Oregon AWARE two years ago to educate patients and health-care providers about the safe use of antibiotics. Since then, the coalition has grown to include more than 40 organizations. Oregon AWARE is a partner in the national Get Smart: Know When Antibiotics Work public education campaign headed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


More information about the safe use of antibiotics and Oregon AWARE is on the DHS public health Web site on antibiotics .