The order created a new inter-agency task force to develop a strategy to fight antibiotic-resistant bacteria and order of business number one is to get Americans to ditch all of our antibacterial products.
Antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria have been big news lately with certain types of strep, tuberculosis and even gonorrhea being declared incurable by even the best drugs we have now. A big cause of this rise of super-bugs has been our dependence on not only antibiotic medications but also antibacterial hand gels, soaps and other products laced with bacteria-killing substances. For years, we thought we were protecting ourselves, but instead we were just forcing the bacteria to evolve faster.
Dr. John Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and assistant to the president, told CNN the problem is a serious challenge to public health and national security as super-bugs can lead to unstoppable epidemics of disease. "We are clearly in a fight against bacteria where no permanent treatment is possible."
And it's a big problem. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that every year approximately 23,000 deaths and 2 million illnesses are linked to antibiotic-resistant infections. In addition to getting doctors to stop prescribing antibiotics for illnesses that don't need them (and to get patients to stop asking for them), the government is also looking at ways to get farmers to stop using antibiotics in their animals and asking people to give up their germ-killing sprays, lotions, powders and plastics.
In the past, experts have talked about making triclosan — the active ingredient in many antibacterial products — illegal. It's found in a surprising array of ordinary household products. Here's just a short list of things to check the ingredients list for: Mouthwash, toothpaste, face wash, adhesive bandages, deodorant, some makeups and even things like cutting boards, hand towels and pens have been known to have been infused with the stuff.
But, whether or not the new committee will recommend a full ban on your bottle of hand sanitizer is yet to be seen. They have until Feb. 15, 2015, to get their recommendations to the president.
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