Overprescribing antibiotics to Americans is fueling the rapid growth of antibiotic-resistant infections in the United States, according to a report released Monday by the Centers for Disease Control (www.cdc.gov.) from CBS News.

More than two million people in the United States  get drug-resistant infections annually. About 23,000 die from these diseases that are becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics in doctors' arsenals.

“It is not too late,” CDC director Tom Frieden said during a press conference. “If we're not careful, the medicine chest will be empty when we go there to look for a lifesaving antibiotic for someone with a deadly infection. If we act now, we can preserve these medications while we continue to work on lifesaving medications.”

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Antibiotic resistance is costing the United States $20 billion in excess health care costs, with costs to society for lost productivity reaching as much as an additional $35 billion.

In April, the CDC estimated that enough antibiotics are prescribed each year for four out of five Americans to be taking them. Doctors and other health care providers prescribed 258 million courses of antibiotics in 2010 for a population just under 309 million. They also estimated in this current report that up to 50% of antibiotics are prescribed incorrectly or to people who do not need them.

Pediatricians have also urged doctors to avoid giving antibiotics unless they are absolutely necessary, especially for ear infections and sinusitis.

Read the full CDC report on antibiotic resistance at www.cbsnews.com.

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