Despite all the panic, Americans don’t face any great risk from Ebola right now. But we do need to worry about a home-grown medical catastrophe of our own that we’re failing to address: the erosion of antibiotic effectiveness.
Doctors prescribe antibiotics to treat a broad array of infections that can otherwise prove fatal. While the drugs are being grossly overused, diminishing their power to heal, hospitals aren’t to blame — factory farms are.
Most U.S. livestock are being raised today in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO). At these factory farms, antibiotics get routinely doled out to stave off the diseases that might otherwise quickly spread due to overcrowded, unnatural, and unsanitary living conditions.
This overuse is rendering these lifesaving drugs less effective by accelerating the evolution of bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics.
Now that they’ve infiltrated our food system, those bacteria are endangering human health and are taking a bite out of the national economy. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria cause prolonged infections in thousands of Americans each year, resulting in $20 billion in annual health care costs and over $35 billion in lost economic productivity, according to the Centers for Disease Control. @ OTHERWORDS.org