World Health Organization Warns Against 'Just In Case' Antibiotic Use for Anthrax
Inside a Reuters Health, October 31, 2001 release is really a warning from the United Nations' World Health Organization (WHO) against taking antibiotics with no need. In the wake of recent Anthrax reports more people have been taking the popular antibiotic Cipro without any real requirement for it. The warning is against the blanket use of antibiotics as a defense against anthrax, saying it would do more harm than good.

David Heymann, the head of the WHO communicable diseases program said antibiotics should be prescribed only when there was reasonable cause to think a person had been in touch with anthrax. In an interview at the Geneva-based United Nations agency, Heymann said, "If you are not at risk, you do yourselves and others a disservice by demanding antibiotics". He continued, "The utilization of antibiotics as 'just in case' protection by people alarmed by reports that anthrax have been found in letters could leave them more susceptible to other unrelated infections.

The problem is that bacteria can become resistant to antibiotics very quickly and can then be passed in one person to another just like a virus. A major WHO concern has been the declining potency of some antibiotics for example penicillin, resulting from widespread overuse. For instance, penicillin, can no longer be used against gonorrhea because strains from the sexually transmitted disease have evolved that are immune to the antibiotic.

Heymann concluded, "One has to remember there is a much greater chance of catching pneumonia than of contracting anthrax."

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