I'm not going to talk about politics, I'm not going to talk about politics. ...
Plenty of people are on the case, and anyway it's just gone beyond comment. Are we really talking seriously about repealing Medicare and Medicaid?
So, I'll bet you didn't know that today is World Health Day. Okay, that's kind of a made up thing, like National Pickle Week, but the WHO does it every year and this year, they've got an important theme, which is preserving the effectiveness of antibiotics.
You've probably heard about MRSA -- staphylococcus that is resistant to penicillin-like drugs. That problem concerns the so-called gram positive bacteria (named for a guy who invented a way of staining bacteria for viewing under a microscope). But there's another resistance problem affecting the gram-negative bacteria, called Klebsiella pneumoniae carbapenemases (KPC), which are enzymes produced by enterobacteria that confer resistance to all the beta lactam antibiotics, including penicillin-like drugs. This is a huge worry because gram negative bacteria exchange genes very readily, and because these organisms are often resistant to other antibiotics as well. Basically, we may soon be seeing a whole lot of untreatable infections.
WHO Director Margaret Chan isn't pulling any punches:
In the absence of urgent corrective and protective actions, the world is heading towards a post-antibiotic era, in which many common infections will no longer have a cure and, once again, kill unabated. The implications go beyond a resurgence of deadly infections to threaten many other life-saving and life-prolonging interventions, like cancer treatments, sophisticated surgical operations, and organ transplantations. With hospitals now the hotbeds for highly-resistant pathogens, such procedures become hazardous.
The actions we can, and must take are actually not all that hard, but they are urgent. Number one, most important, easiest to do in reality and apparently hardest to do politically, is top feeding antibiotics to livestock! Just outlaw it. Boom. Done. Of course this means that livestock will have to be raised more humanely, under less crowded and more hygienic conditions. It will take away our God-given right to fatten cattle and pigs while they wallow in their own feces, making the country a totalitarian dungeon. So be it.
Second, physicians must stop prescribing antibiotics inappropriately. This apparently will require some sort of intervention by payers, because they seem incapable of doing it on their own.
Third, everybody must get the message: don't ask for antibiotics, let your doctor decide if you really need them. If you do really need them, and you do start taking them, finish the entire course even though you already feel better. That is your duty to humanity.
Fourth, we need to improve infection control measures in hospitals and other health care settings. Equipment and facilities need to be designed so they are more readily cleanable. Microbes can obviously hide in every crack and crevice, so there mustn't be any. We have to get cleaner, make fewer holes in people, and enforce stricter policies on hospital visitation. Sorry.
Fifth, we can adopt better hygiene habits in our own lives. Keep washing those hands. But don't use those antibacterial cleaning products, the bugs just get resistant to them. Keep a clean house. Bleach and alcohol do disinfect and can't produce resistance, but they usually aren't really necessary.
Stay home if you're sick.
Do your part.