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The World Health Organization has declared that one of the greatest threats to global health, food security, and the development of new antibiotics is antibiotic resistance (Antibiotic resistance, 2020). When bacteria and fungi develop the ability to defeat the medication that is used to eradicate them, this results in antibiotic resistance (also known as antimicrobial resistance (About antibiotic resistance, 2022). For decades, the media has been discussing the dangers of antibiotic resistance. The scrutiny over antibiotic resistance given by the media has not only alerted the general public to the causes of antibiotic resistance but also to the severity of the problem and possible solutions.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, when bacteria and fungi develop it impacts the ability to defeat the medication that is used to eradicate them. This results in antibiotic resistance (also known as antimicrobial resistance (About antibiotic resistance, 2022). Antibiotic resistance poses one of the greatest risks to world health today. To cause a health threat, bacteria and fungi do not need to be resistant to all antibiotics, resistance to just one antibiotic can result in serious problems.

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What Is The Difference Between Bacterial Infections And Viral Infections?

To put it simply, bacteria cause bacterial infections, and viruses cause viral infections. Both bacterial infections and viral infections will often present with many of the same symptoms; however, it can be difficult for your healthcare provider to recognise when a person has a bacterial infection versus a viral infection. Bacterial infections and viral infections must be treated differently since antibiotics will not cure bacterial infections. Using antibiotics to treat viral  infections will not cure viral infections and contributes to the development of antibiotic resistance.

How Does My Doctor Know If I have A Bacterial Infection Or A Viral Infection?

Differentiating between bacterial and viral infections can be difficult for the most skilled healthcare provider. For example, our primary care provider may order a urine sample to rule out a urinary tract infection, a swab of your sputum to determine a respiratory tract infection, a throat swab for strep throat, or a wound swab to confirm a wound infection. Your primary healthcare provider will often order the culture first before starting an antibiotic to verify the presence of a bacterial infection and to determine the correct antibiotic to be prescribed. Starting antibiotics before obtaining a culture can make it difficult to identify the offending organism and ensure that the patient has been prescribed the correct antibiotics.

How Are Viral Infections Treated?

For some viral infections, your healthcare provider may provide you with a prescription for an antiviral. An antiviral medication can shorten the duration of an illness and decrease the severity of the symptoms. Two common antivirals are those that are used to treat influenza and Covid-19. Unfortunately, viral infections such as HIV, herpes, and hepatitis are considered to be chronic (long-term) illnesses and that an antiviral cannot clear the body of the virus.

When prescribed an antiviral, the timing of the medication will determine its effectiveness. When prescribed an antiviral for influenza, it is most effective when taken within 48 hours of being exposed to influenza and should be taken for 10 days. For an antiviral to be effective in treating Covid 19, it should be taken within 5 days of the onset of symptoms.

What Is A Secondary Bacterial Infection?

In some patients with viral infections, the patient can develop a secondary bacterial infection requiring antibiotics. Common examples of secondary bacterial infections are pneumonia, ear infections, and sinusitis. When symptoms of a viral infection last more than 10 to 14 days, when a fever worsens a few days into the illness, or when the illness has persisted beyond 10 to 14 days, it is safe to assume that a bacterial infection has occurred after a viral infection. This is when it is appropriate to start the patient on a course of oral antibiotics. When starting antibiotics, it is vital that you take the entire course and do not stop taking them simply because you are feeling better. If you are feeling better, this means that you have been prescribed the correct antibiotic for your bacterial infection.

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Reference

1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, October 5). About antibiotic resistance. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Reference Link

2. World Health Organization. (2020, July 31). Antibiotic resistance. World Health Organization: Reference Link

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