Each year, at least 2 million people in the U.S. are infected with bacteria that can’t be easily treated with antibiotics. These resistant bacteria—often picked up in hospitals—now kill about 23,000 people each year, and indirectly lead to the deaths of many more. Ironically, the main cause of this growing problem is the widespread use of those very antibiotic drugs.

Antibiotics are among the most commonly prescribed medicines. But as many of half those prescriptions are not needed, or are not used effectively, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What’s more, antibiotics are overused on farms, too, not to treat infection but to prevent disease and promote growth in livestock.

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Consumers can play a key role in helping to reduce the overuse and misuse of antibiotics, so Consumer Reports this week is partnering with the CDC in a broad effort to sound the alarm about antibiotic resistance and promote changes in how we use these drugs.

Get Smart About Antibiotics, initiated by the CDC, is an effort to improve antibiotic use in communities, in hospitals, and on the farm.

Some 150 partners are participating—professional societies, advocacy groups, for-profit companies, and state and local health departments. In an acknowledgment of the global nature of the threat, the weeklong observance coincides with similar efforts by Canada, Australia, the European Union, the World Health Organization, and the Pan American Health Organization.

The outreach includes a 24-hour Twitter chat on Wednesday, hosted by the European Union's Antibiotic Awareness Day, with contributions from around the world. (Follow the hashtag #AntibioticResistance.)

The CDC is partnering with Consumer Reports and the ABIM Foundation in support of the Choosing Wisely campaign, which includes antibiotic overuse among the topics that doctors are encouraged to discuss with patients.

Where to Turn for Info

What can you do to protect yourself and to help reduce antibiotic overuse? Here are some resources: