SWH antimicrobial stewardship pharmacist Kellie Cashmore says the responsible use of antimicrobials is everybody’s business.
“It’s something we all need to be concerned about, from members of the community, GPs, all healthcare workers and even agriculture where antibiotics have been put in animal food,” she said.
“We should try to avoid antibiotics where possible; you shouldn’t go to the GP with a cold and expect to receive antibiotics.”
While antibiotics are often used to treat bacterial infections, they are not effective against viral infections such as flu and cold and over-use can lead to other serious conditions and reduced effectiveness.
Speaking at the start of Antimicrobial Awareness Week from November 18-24, Mrs Cashmore said the World Health Organisation recognised antimicrobial resistance – when an antibiotic used to treat an infection doesn’t work anymore – as one of the greatest threats to mankind.
Apart from resistance, a nasty bowel infection, Clostridioids difficile, can result from using antibiotics and is recognised by the US Centre for Disease Control as the number one cause of hospital-acquired infections in the world. It has a high mortality rate with elderly and is only caused from use of antibiotics.
The week was previously known as Antibiotic Awareness Week but this year the title has changed to Antimicrobial Awareness Week to encompass antiviral, antifungal and antibiotics.
Mrs Cashmore believes the message about the risk of over using antimicrobials is starting to get through.
“Some people can be quite pushy about getting antibiotics but a lot of the time they’re not needed,” she said. “If you’re unwell, you should definitely get a review but then trust the doctor to make the right decision.
“People are starting to respect that and we’re seeing a culture change about the use of antimicrobials. A lot of people don’t realise that if you get a bad virus, it can take four weeks to get over it and if you’re immunocompromised, it could take even longer, but the message about the risks of antibiotics is starting to get through.”
The overarching message for Antimicrobial Awareness Week in 2021 is Antimicrobials: handle with care and the theme for 2021 is Spread Awareness, Stop Resistance for the food, animal, agriculture and human health sectors.