The looming public health crisis we’re not talking about

Overusing antibiotics on factory farms threatens public health — so why is it still happening?

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Aaron Colonnese
Content Creator

Author: Aaron Colonnese

Content Creator

 

Started on staff: 2020
B.A., Brown University

Aaron writes and designs materials with the Creative Team for The Public Interest Network for U.S. PIRG. Aaron lives in Arlington, Massachusetts, and spends his spare time playing drums and going for long walks.

Research has revealed that livestock workers face an even higher risk of picking up a potentially dangerous strain of antibiotic-resistant bacteria than previously thought.

If antibiotics are no longer effective, it will have devastating consequences for human health. It's crucial that our leaders mitigate this growing threat by putting a stop to the overuse of medically important antibiotics in food animal production.

That starts with putting a time limit on how long antibiotics can be used — right now 1 in 3 antibiotics important to human health are approved for animals without data-driven limits on their use. And the ball is in Congress’ court: Our lawmakers must call on the FDA to set duration limits of 21 days or less for the use of any medically important antibiotics in animal agriculture.

Antibiotic-resistant “superbugs”

Nearly 3 million Americans get sick each year from antibiotic-resistant infections. At least 35,000 die. The diseases they contract are difficult — sometimes impossible — to treat with antibiotics because they are caused by drug-resistant "superbugs."

Experts warn that without swift action, these kinds of infections will become more prevalent — and one of the main causes is the overuse of our medically important antibiotics in animal agriculture. Livestock producers routinely give antibiotics to animals to help them survive crowded, stressful and unsanitary conditions.

And now, research shows that workers on these farms are up to 15 times more likely to harbor a strain of the antibiotic-resistant bacteria known as MRSA than individuals who don't work with animals.

Livestock workers shouldn't have to be our canaries in the coalmine of antibiotic-resistant infections. Congress needs to take action now to stop the dangerous overuse of antibiotics in animal agriculture.

Preventing the next public health crisis

Approximately two-thirds of medically important antibiotics sold in the U.S. are intended for use in livestock and poultry. But if we want to keep our lifesaving antibiotics effective, we shouldn't be routinely giving them to food animals, especially ones that aren't even sick.

If we don't act soon, the next public health crisis we face could very well be caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

It's time for our public officials to heed the advice of health experts and enact policies that will end the dangerous overuse of antibiotics. And that starts with hearing from you on this crucial issue.

Take action to stop the overuse of antibiotics

Send an urgent message telling Congress to help prevent antibiotic-resistant infections by limiting the use of these medicines on factory farms.

Aaron Colonnese
Content Creator

Author: Aaron Colonnese

Content Creator

 

Started on staff: 2020
B.A., Brown University

Aaron writes and designs materials with the Creative Team for The Public Interest Network for U.S. PIRG. Aaron lives in Arlington, Massachusetts, and spends his spare time playing drums and going for long walks.