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Illinois Attempts to Curb Overuse of Antibiotics

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The Illinois Department of Public Health is aiming to curb the over prescription and overuse of antibiotics that are strengthening superbugs.

Similar to how an insect can become immune to a certain bug spray over the years, superbugs are bacteria that have mutated, adapted and built up an immunity to antibiotics in order to survive.

The cause includes the over prescribing of drugs, limited variety and the lack of new antibiotics being developed. The Center for Disease Controlhas identified antibiotic resistant superbugs as an urgent threatto public health.

Erica Runningdeer with the Illinois Department of Public Healthsaid nearly half of all antibiotics prescribed during short-term care and nearly 75 percent in long-term are unnecessaryor inappropriate.

“Antibiotics are thought of as kind of a cure all that has no ill effects," Runningdeer said. "It won’t hurt to throw an antibiotic on it just in case and we really need to change that mindset because what’s happening is that the effect of doing that is just they just don’t work anymore.”

She said the department's now electronically tracking some hospitals to identify the quantity and the kind of antibiotics are being prescribed. To participate, hospitals had to be equipped with compatible IT Eighteen hospitals are participating including St. Mary Medical Center in Galesburg.

The database also allows doctors to skip the paper and electronically send scripts to be filled at local pharmacies. St. Mary Medical Center reports patients are enjoying the convenience.  

Emily Boyer is a former reporter at Tri States Public Radio.