For the first time, the government is estimating how many people die each year from drug-resistant bacteria.
Officials say more than 23,000 deaths and 2 million illnesses stem from germs that are hard to treat because they've become resistant to drugs.
Antibiotics became widely available in the 1940s, and today dozens are used to kill or suppress the bacteria behind everything form strep throat to the plague. But as decades passed, some antibiotics stopped working. Experts say their overuse and misuse have helped make them less effective.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the figures Monday.
Dr. Kaushal Nanavati from Upstate University Hospital says overuse of antibiotics can weaken a patient's immune system. "The good bacteria can start becoming resistant, the bad bacteria start becoming resistant and now when we get an infection, there's nothing in the medicine cabinet we can treat with," said Dr. Nanavati.
Dr. Nanavati recommends that patients strengthen their immune system by eating well, exercising and getting enough sleep - not treating antibiotics like a cure all. Antibiotics can only treat bacterial infections and are not effective against viral infections, allergies or many other ailments.
"The old saying is a cold gets better on its own in 9-12 days or you can fix it with antibiotics in two weeks," said Dr. Nanavati.