The numbers of COVID patients at The University of Kansas Health System are stable with 17 patients with the active virus being treated, down from 18 on Tuesday. Only three of those 17 infected patients are fully vaccinated. Seven of those patients are in the ICU, up from six yesterday. Only one is on a ventilator, down from two yesterday. There are 16 other patients who are still hospitalized because of COVID but are out of the acute infection phase, up from 15 yesterday. HaysMed has 12 active and 7 recovering, for a total of 19 patients. One key milestone is that the Health System has just administered 100,000 plus COVID vaccine doses yesterday.
Kansas is the eighth-highest antibiotic prescribing state with 904 antibiotic prescriptions per 1000 people, prompting Kansas Governor Laura Kelly to proclaim the week of Nov. 18-24 as “Use Antibiotics Wisely Week.”
Dr. Steven Simpson, Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine Specialist and Dr. Steven Lauer, Pediatrician, joined Open Mics with Dr. Steve Stites, chief medical officer of The University of Kansas Health System, and Dr. Dana Hawkinson, medical director of Infection Prevention and Control at The University of Kansas Health System to discuss how to use antibiotics wisely to help protect from growing resistance against medicine.
Many doctors are under pressure to prescribe antibiotics as a “quick fix”, even though antibiotics may not be necessary at that point. The Health System follows important “antibiotic stewardship” practices.
“We know that there are drawbacks and side effects to antibiotics,” said Dr. Hawkinson. “People do have nausea and vomiting with antibiotics – these are side effects – but we know they can also increase your risk of things like C difficile infection which causes diarrhea and illness and can land you in a hospital.”
Dr. Simpson reiterated that it is important to ask key questions before prescribing antibiotics, including “is this person infected?” and “is the infection something an antibiotic will be useful for?”
And when prescribed, it is also important to strictly follow a doctor’s instructions – starting the prescription when advised and following through on taking all the antibiotics.
“When people change the rules, cut things short, it starts to affect everyone,” said Dr. Lauer. “It starts to expose the bacteria to short courses of antibiotics and when that happens, you get resistant bacteria. Your body doesn’t become resistant, the bacteria become resistant.”
The doctors agreed that the body’s immune system can often take care of bacterial infections without the use of antibiotics within a couple of days. If not, then antibiotic use can be considered.
Several community questions were asked about the use of antibiotics before dental procedures as a precautionary move. The doctors said pre-emptive antibiotics for dental procedures are not generally needed. Dr. Simpson said that even in the ICU, they do not prescribe a two-week course of antibiotics, but a shortened course to get the benefits without some of the side effects.
Many moms asked about ear infections with kids and how we should know if antibiotics are needed. Dr. Lauer said that is hard to tell unless a doctor is specifically looking at a child’s ear drum.
“This is where we need to set up these discussions with families before their child is sick,” said Dr. Lauer. “We know that most ear infections go away on their own. Can we let their body take care of that infection before giving them antibiotics? It’s a tough sell. If that doesn’t work after 2-3 days, we may need to get in there with the antibiotics, but we’re really trying to stretch out that time before an antibiotic is just automatically given.”
One question was asked about the development of new antibiotic drugs and if they are profitable enough for drug manufacturers to produce. Dr. Simpson mentioned that based on his work in Washington, D.C., he has seen some of the most innovative new antibiotics coming from smaller pharmaceutical companies, but they have limited funds to advance them through the rigorous testing and approval process. He said that the government is stepping up efforts to help those companies bring more helpful drugs to market.
A topical question about COVID was asked by the community wanting to know if the COVID vaccine will lead to COVID virus resistance the way antibiotics have increase bacterial resistance. They clear answer is no from all the doctors. There is a big difference.
“The vaccines are just stimulating your body to produce the antibodies that it would be producing,” said Dr. Stites. “You don’t get resistant to vaccination, actually, vaccination decreases the opportunity for the virus to evolve and it won’t reproduce as much and that’s how we avoid more mutations. That’s why it’s so important to get so many people vaccinated.”
When it comes to hand sanitizer, we’ve been told that overuse can lead to antibiotic resistance. However, since one of the components has been removed from hand sanitizers, the doctors believe this is no longer contributing to that issue and recommends the use of hand sanitizer.
Dr. Simpson also reminds people to dispose of antibiotics properly. Flushing them or throwing them in the garbage can lead to environmental antibiotic resistance. Major pharmacies should be able to help with disposing of unused medications.
Dr. Hawkinson summed up the program with some key points.
“Antibiotic resistance is vitally important,” he said. “Do not request antibiotics if your doctor has not recommended them. If your doctor does prescribe an antibiotic, take the whole course as prescribed.”
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