TUESDAY, Nov. 13 (HealthDay News) -- Americans are not as smart about antibiotics and antibiotic resistance as they should be, a new poll shows.
For instance, although almost 90 percent of Americans know that antibiotics are effective for treating bacterial infections, more than a third also erroneously believed the drugs can fight viral infections such as the common cold or the flu.
"It's a common misperception that antibiotics can cure the common cold, and unnecessary overuse of antibiotics for illnesses like colds is dumping fuel on a wildfire of resistance," said Dr. Lauri Hicks, medical director of the "Get Smart: Know When Antibiotics Work" program at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The number of antibiotic-resistant "superbugs" is soaring. In 2005, almost 370,000 Americans were hospitalized with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), up from only about 2,000 in 1993. MRSA and other drug-resistant infections kill about 60,000 people every year in the United States, and add up to untold days spent in the hospital and billions of dollars in health care costs, according to the CDC.
The new poll, which surveyed 1,000 adults by phone and more in focus groups, was conducted by The Pew Charitable Trusts in collaboration with the CDC and is being released as part of the CDC's "Get Smart About Antibiotics Week."
Only 25 percent of respondents had heard "a great deal" about antibiotic resistance, one-third had heard a "fair amount" and a full 41 percent had heard very little or nothing at all.
But even among those who had heard about antibiotic resistance, many misperceptions surfaced during the course of the survey work.
For instance, even though the majority of respondents knew that unnecessary use of antibiotics could harm their health, less than half realized that this could also harm other members of the c
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