Late last month, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar extended COVID-19’s status as a public health emergency.

But a less publicized health crisis also requires his attention – “superbugs.”

These drug-resistant bacteria and fungi already kill over 35,000 Americans each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And that’s a conservative estimate. Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis estimate the true annual U.S. death toll may exceed 162,000. While resistant infections can strike anyone, many of those victims are hospital patients whose weakened immune systems can’t fight off these infections.

In the coming years, deaths could skyrocket as superbugs evolve to resist our last remaining treatments. If and when that happens, these untreatable infections could threaten millions of Americans and make common medical procedures, from C-sections to knee replacements, too risky.

Secretary Azar is well aware of the enormous threat superbugs pose. But many others in the federal government aren’t. It’s up to the long-time public servant to educate his colleagues and help catalyze the development of new, more effective treatments.

Read the full piece here.