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The story of medicine is one of hope and progress. Today, diseases and illnesses are better understood and treated than at any point in human history.
This is why it’s so disturbing that medicine, in one critical way, is getting closer to taking a giant step backward. Antibiotics are losing their effectiveness, and the manner in which livestock and poultry are raised on many large factory farms is part of the problem.
In its recent report on antimicrobial resistance, the World Health Organization (WHO) said: “A post-antibiotic era in which common infections and minor injuries can kill — far from being an apocalyptic fantasy — is instead a very real possibility for the 21st Century.”
The WHO report is the latest in a string of increasingly dire warnings from the medical community. Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said: “If we are not careful, we will soon be in a post-antibiotic era, and for some patients and some microbes, we are already there.”
If we want a future in which antibiotics remain a central pillar of health care, we need all animal farms to take similar action immediately. Congress and the Barack Obama administration can make this happen by requiring that livestock and poultry operations stop using antibiotics on animals that aren’t sick. This immediate action is critical to ensure that these precious medicines are preserved for generations to come.
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