Antibiotics and Antibiotic Resistance



Antibiotics are drugs used to treat bacterial infections. They are part of a larger group of drugs known as antimicrobials. Antibiotics are one of the 20th century's most important medical discoveries. These medicines make treating bacterial infections possible and have saved many lives. However, antibiotics are often taken incorrectly.

Protect Yourself and Your Family (CDC) (PDF)

What to know about antibiotics?

Antibiotics are not always the right choice. They can cause allergic reactions and destroy the good bacteria in your stomach.

Antibiotics do NOT work against infections caused by viruses, and do NOT cure:

  • Colds or the flu (influenza)
  • Most coughs and bronchitis
  • Most sore throats
  • Runny noses, even if the mucus is thick or colored

More about bacteria, viruses and antibiotics from the CDC

Antibiotic Resistance

Antibiotic resistance means bacteria have changed to resist the killing effects of an antibiotic. In other words, some antibiotics will no longer be able to kill certain bacteria or they will be less effective at killing them.

Once bacteria become resistant they can continue to multiply causing more harm. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria/infections are more difficult to treat, require more toxic and expensive treatments, cause longer hospital stays, and can spread from person to person making the problem worse.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control, each year in the United States, at least 2 million people become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and at least 23,000 people die each year as a direct result of these infections. In addition, most of the 500,000 infections and 29,000 deaths due to Clostridium difficile in the US each year are associated with antibiotic use.

Open Letter to Washington State on Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria (PDF)

Governor's Proclamation (PDF)

Learn more about antibiotic resistance from the CDC

How can I help use antibiotics wisely?

Learn more about bacteria, viruses and antibiotics from the CDC

Resources for Professionals

Information for healthcare providers on how to use antibiotics wisely