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World Antibiotic Awareness Week, 14 November 2016

 

 

Compiled by Ethekwini Hospital and Heart Centre resident Specialist Physician Dr Ryan Ramdass and Chairman of Ethekwini Hospital and Heart Centre Antimicrobial Stewardship Programme

 

November 16-20 marks the week that the WHO brings special attention to the global pandemic of Antibiotic Resistance.

 

The aim of such a campaign is to draw public, professional and policy makers' attention to one of the biggest threats to global health, namely the rapid emergence of drug resistant bacteria. Infections caused by the organisms result in a significant increase in ill health and death amongst the global population. The cost to treat such disease places additional strain on already limit health care resources in many parts of the world. It can affect anyone of any age and in any state of health.

 

In May 2015, a global action plan to tackle antimicrobial resistance was endorsed at the World Health Assembly, supported by the Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) & World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). The objective of the plan is to ‘improve awareness & understanding of antimicrobial resistance through effective communication, education & training’.

 

To help achieve this objective, WHO launched the ‘Antibiotics: Handle with care’ campaign during the World Antibiotic Awareness Week in November 2015, working closely with FAO & OIE. Many countries and regional bodies also run antibiotic resistance awareness campaigns. WHO, FAO & OIE are building on this success and reaching a global audience.

 

Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria develop or acquire resistance mechanisms to one or more classes of antibiotics. Whilst this may occur naturally, the misuse of antibiotics certainly accelerates the process.

 

Without urgent action, the world is headed for a ‘post-antibiotic era’ in which common infections & minor injuries which have been treatable for decades can once again kill, & the benefits of advanced medical treatments such as chemotherapy & major surgery will be lost.

 

Resistance develops as a result of many factors:

  • over-prescribing and dispensing of antibiotics
  • misuse of antibiotics by patients
  • over-use and misuse of antibiotics in livestock, cattle farming and on plants
  • lack of new antibiotics being developed
  • poor infection control in hospitals, clinics and farms
  • lack of toilets and proper sewage disposal

 

How the public can help:

  • Only use antibiotics when prescribed by a certified health professional
  • Never demand antibiotics if your health worker says you don’t need them
  • Always follow your health worker’s advice when using antibiotics
  • Never share or use leftover antibiotics
  • Prevent infections by regularly washing your hands, handling food in a safe/clean manner, avoiding close contact with sick people, practising safer sex & keeping vaccinations up to date.

 

How health professionals can help:

  • Prevent infections by ensuring that your hands, instruments and environment are clean and safe for use at the right times
  • Keep your patients’ vaccinations up to date
  • Only prescribe and dispense antibiotics when they are truly needed
  • Prescribe and dispense antibiotics according to current guidelines
  • Always follow infection prevention and control protocols
  • Use diagnostics to make informed treatment decisions (when possible)
  • Only prescribe and dispense antibiotics when they are needed, according to current guidelines
  • Talk to patients about how to take antibiotics correctly, antibiotic resistance and the dangers of misuse
  • Talk to patients about preventing infections (e.g. vaccination, hand washing, safer sex, covering nose & mouth when sneezing)
  • When patients are seeking treatment for cold or explain that antibiotics are not needed

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