Help me put a stop to...
The No.1 threat to our national security
Every year, undercover assassins kill almost 100,000 Americans. But this clear and present danger to our national security isn’t from an enemy nation, or a terrorist organization, or a radical religious sect. It’s in the form of microscopic organisms called bacteria.
They’re not just any bacteria. These mutant superbugs have developed a resistance to some of our most powerful drugs, and if they continue unchecked, they’ll bring an unprecedented health crisis on the entire nation.
Remember the days when polio, tuberculosis, and small pox plagued the country? Hardly a family was unaffected by these diseases. Well, I hate to be the one to break it to you, but... they’re back.
John Fisher, M.D., a pathologist and consultant for the WHO, said, “The pendulum has incredibly begun to swing back to the 1930s. Hospitals are in jeopardy of once again being overwhelmed with untreatable infectious diseases such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, meningitis, typhoid fever, and dysentery.”
And along with the old menaces, there are a few new faces to add to the lineup.
Superbugs declare World War III
It wasn’t that long ago that the MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) infection entered the picture and turned our antibiotic-reliant world on its head. We knew it would happen sooner or later. Even the man who first discovered penicillin, Sir Alexander Fleming, tried to warn us that overusing the drug would lead to antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Now, this one infection alone kills more people than AIDS.
But as widespread and as deadly as this infection can be, it isn’t alone. And in some places, it’s not even the most prevalent. In the Southeast U.S., another superbug has taken over MRSA’s top spot on the superbug chart. C. diff (Clostridium difficile) is responsible for making almost 500,000 people sick and for killing nearly 28,000.
Overall, antibiotic-resistant superbugs are estimated to cost the already overburdened healthcare system between $16 and $26 billion per year.
Should I go on? Because there’s plenty more where this news came from. Just recently, a new drug-resistant strain of E. coli, called ST131, has entered the scene. It’s been reported across the U.S., and in several other countries as well. And worst of all, scientists have no idea what its source is or how it spreads.
Dr. James Johnson of the VA Medical Center in Minneapolis said, “If this strain gains one additional resistance gene, it will become almost untreatable and will be a true superbug.”
Let’s hope ST131 doesn’t meet up with NDM-1. The newly discovered New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase gene has an uncanny ability to take your run-of-the-mill bacteria and turn them into the type that’s resistant to antibiotics.
This resistant gene has been identified in the U.K., Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the U.S., and it’s been traced back to India and Pakistan, where people frequently travel to get less expensive medical treatment. (Turns out those cheap procedures have some pretty costly side effects!)
Researchers, writing in Lancet Infectious Diseases, said, “The potential of NDM-1 to be a worldwide public health problem is great, and coordinated international surveillance is needed.”
So why am I telling you this?
Because the tens of thousands of people who have died so far——and tens of billions of dollars we’ve spent treating these sicknesses——will look like small potatoes compared to the casualties we’ll be facing in the future unless we do something to put a stop to this health threat.
And the first step? Identify the source of the problem.
How human error is responsible for America’s looming health crisis
If you’ve ever been given a course of antibiotics, you know the drill. Even when you’re feeling 100 percent again, you have to take the pills until they’re gone.
If antibiotics are given for too short of time, at the wrong dose, for the wrong disease, or at an inadequate strength, you run the risk of leaving some of the strongest critters alive. When that happens, they pass on their “survival genes” to other bacteria, resulting in stronger infections, increased illness, resistance to drugs——and a health crisis unlike any the nation has ever seen.
There’s no doubt that the over-prescribing of antibiotics in hospitals, nursing homes, and clinics across the U.S. has contributed to the rise in these deadly superbugs. After all, the use of these drugs is hundreds of times greater now than just 50 years ago.
Now, take everything you know about the proper use of antibiotics and imagine giving someone low doses of the drug with every meal for the purpose of disease prevention. The idea is idiotic, but believe it or not, nearly 70 percent of antibiotic use in the U.S. is used for this very reason.
Not in people——in animals.
Bacteria’s “hog heaven” is about to become your hell on earth
In order to promote growth and prevent disease, factory farms routinely feed antibiotics to their animals. The drugs cause the animals to grow bigger and faster, and helps keep them healthy in the process. Less feed and fewer diseases... it’s great for the bottom line.
But we’re not talking about the bottom line. We’re talking about your health.
Writing in the Huffington Post, John Robbins said, “If your goal was to breed bacteria that could not be controlled by antibiotics, you could hardly design a more effective system.”
The farming industry claims that feeding antibiotics to their animals has nothing to do with the rise of the antibiotic-resistant superbugs. The science would beg to differ.
l In the late 90s, resistant strains of Campylobacter bacteria were found in both humans and chickens. Researchers determined that the resistant bacteria found in humans could be traced back to the chickens.
l In the 80s, drug-resistant salmonella infections were linked to cattle on dairy farms.
l In 2004, the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) issued a report that found that the rapidly growing, antibiotic-resistant Salmonella infections were likely caused by animals.
l A joint report by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), and the World Health Organization (WHO) found that “The use of antibiotics in humans and animals places individuals at increased risk for infection, higher numbers of treatment failures, and increased severity of illness.”
According to a 2002 WHO “Antimicrobial resistance” fact sheet, “Widespread use of antimicrobials for disease control and growth promotion in animals has been paralleled by an increase in resistance in those bacteria (such as Salmonella and Campylobacter) that can spread from animals, often through food, to cause infections in humans.
The Institute of Medicine, the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control——all blame the rise of the superbug on the irresponsible use of antibiotics in factory farms. In fact, the scientific evidence is so overwhelming that Canada, the U.K., the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Germany, and other European countries have all banned the non-medical use of antibiotics in livestock.
It’s time for us to do the same.
That’s why legislation has been adopted that would put an end to the willy-nilly use of antibiotics in animals. It’s called the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (H.R. 1549/S. 619), and it would limit the use of antibiotics to sick animals.
The factory farms won’t let this one pass without a fight. Their biggest argument against this legislation is that eliminating the daily doses of antibiotics will lead to more sick animals——and it will. But only if the meat industry refuses to improve their current abominable farming practices.
If you knew what conditions these animals were raised in——the extreme overcrowding, the filth, the disease, the garbage they’re fed, the practice of putting meat from diseased animals into the food supply... First, you’d never eat factory meat again, but second, you’d get a better picture of why this legislation has industrial farmers pulling out all the stops.
Feeding routine antibiotics to the animals is the only thing that allows the meat industry to get away with their farming practices. Take away the drugs, and they’ll be forced to clean up their act. And that’s exactly what they need to do.
Here’s what to do:
You have a say in putting a stop to this national health threat. Your first step is to urge your representatives to support the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act. The easiest way to do that is by going online to www.SaveAntibiotics.org. In the center of the homepage, click on the “Take Action” box and follow the directions.
The next thing you need to do——starting today——is to stop supporting the factory farms that are responsible for the widespread, dangerous use of antibiotics.
If you don’t think you’re supporting them, answer this question for me: Where did you buy your last chicken? If it was at a typical grocery store, then chances are you have no idea where that chicken came from, what farm it was raised on, what the living conditions were——or what drugs these animals were force-fed while they lived short lives in crowded indoor spaces, living in their filth and eating God-knows-what.
Buy your meat from a local farmer. Shop at the farmer’s market. Contact the farmer directly. Do your research. It’s YOUR responsibility to know where your food comes from. Sure, it might take a little legwork in the beginning. And yes, it’s definitely going to cost you a little more money. But we’re not talking about choosing ottomans, here.
This is literally a matter of life and death. Maybe not for you——but it will be for your kids and grandkids.