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DHS news release

Nov. 29, 2007


Contact: Bonnie Widerburg, 971-673-1282
Technical contact: Ann Thomas, M.D., 971- 673-1111


Antibiotic awareness ad arrives in Portland movie theatres




An animated health ad will hit 262 screens at 25 Portland-area Regal Cinema movie theaters this week, just in time for cold and flu season.


The message is simple and direct: "Warning! Antibiotics don't work for viruses like colds and the flu. Use antibiotics wisely."


The ad, sponsored by the Oregon Alliance Working for Antibiotic Resistance Education (AWARE), is funded by federal dollars and will run Nov. 30 through Jan. 31.


"Using antibiotics when you don't need them promotes the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria," said James Leggett, M.D., an infectious diseases specialist at Providence. "These bacteria cause illnesses that are difficult to treat and often require expensive, inconvenient and potentially dangerous medications."


A growing public health concern is the increasing prevalence of drug-resistant bacteria, according to Ann Thomas, M.D., public health physician in the Oregon Department of Human Services Public Health Division.


Recent publicity regarding methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) also has served to heighten concern among the general public. Thomas noted that MRSA is widespread, probably at least in part as a result of antibiotic misuse.


Nationally, more than half of S. aureus cases are resistant to antibiotics, and more than 300 patients were hospitalized with invasive MRSA in the Portland area during 2006.


Another infection, Streptococcus pneumoniae, is the leading cause of meningitis and bacterial pneumonia in the United States. In 2006, 18 percent of severe S. pneumoniae cases occurring in the Portland area were resistant to antibiotics. Although the DHS Public Health Division does not track Oregon cases of otitis media (ear infections) caused by S. pneumoniae, researchers in New York have found cases of otitis media that were resistant to all the antibiotics licensed for use for ear infections in children.


"Our hope is that the cinema ad will change people's thinking about using antibiotics for every case of cough or cold this winter," Thomas said. "Smart use of antibiotics is the key to controlling the spread of resistance."


Thomas recommends three steps people can take to help in the effort:

  • Don't pressure your health care provider to prescribe antibiotics for viral infections such as colds or flu. Antibiotics have no power against viruses and can cause serious side effects.
  • If antibiotics are prescribed, take every dose, even if your symptoms improve. Not finishing the treatment contributes to the development of resistant bacteria.
  • Never share antibiotics, take a prescription that isn't yours or use leftover antibiotics to treat an illness.

Oregon AWARE was established by DHS in 2001 to reduce inappropriate use of antibiotics, particularly for viral respiratory infections. More than 40 public and private partners have joined the alliance.


As with other public health programs, Oregon AWARE is focused on prevention, so that avoidable illness and injury do not occur. It is one of 34 state and local programs coordinated through the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's "Get Smart: Know When Antibiotics Work" campaign. More information about the safe use of antibiotics and Oregon AWARE is on the AWARE Web site.


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