THIS week should be full of activities planned to raise awareness on the misuse and abuse of antibiotics that could cause the human body to resist it.
It is the World Antibiotics Awareness Week, from Nov 18-24
The week is all about increasing awareness of global antibiotic resistance and to encourage best practices among the public, health workers and policy makers to avoid the further emergence and spread of antibiotic resistance.
A global action plan to tackle the growing problem of resistance to antibiotics and other antimicrobial medicines was endorsed at the 68th World Health Assembly in May 2015.
One of the key objectives of the plan is to improve awareness and understanding of antimicrobial resistance through effective communication, education and training. For Papua New Guinea, the message drummed home with this event should be focused on the dangers of purchasing antibiotics, such as amoxycillin, on the street.
The Health Department has countlessly warned the public not to purchase medicine sold at places that are not recognised by the department and the World Health Organisation.
Those selling on the streets are doing so without proper compliance certificates and pharmaceutical licences.
Antibiotics are an indispensable weapon in every physician’s arsenal, but when prescribed unnecessarily for non-bacterial infections as the common cold, as they too often are, they provide no benefit and create problems.
Antibiotics wipe out healthy bacteria and can cause side effects such as yeast infections and allergic reactions.
Worse still, they contribute to the rise in superbugs that resist treatment with antibiotics.
Antibiotics either stop bacteria from reproducing or destroy them.
Before bacteria can multiply and cause symptoms, the body’s immune system can kill them.
Health journals say our white blood cells attack harmful bacteria and, even if symptoms do occur, our immune system can cope and fight off infection.
The body’s resistance to antibiotics is a problem that is increasing to dangerously high levels all over the world, and PNG is no exception.
Where antibiotics can be bought for human or animal use without a prescription, the emergence and spread of resistance is made worse.
Similarly, in countries without standard treatment guidelines, antibiotics are often over-prescribed by health workers and veterinarians and over-used by the public.
Antibiotic resistance is accelerated by the misuse and overuse of antibiotics, as well as poor infection prevention and control.
Steps can be taken at all levels of society to reduce the impact and limit the spread of resistance.
To prevent and control the spread of resistance to antibiotics, individuals can help themselves by:
- Using antibiotics when prescribed by a certified health professional;
- never demand antibiotics if the health worker says you do not need them;
- always follow the health worker’s advice when using antibiotics; and,
- Never share or use leftover antibiotics.
Health professionals should only prescribe and dispense antibiotics when they are needed, and only according to current guidelines.
They also talk to patients about how to take antibiotic medications correctly, antibiotics resistance and the dangers of misuse.
It must be stressed that when infections can no longer be treated by first-line antibiotics, more expensive medicines should be used.
A longer duration of illness and treatment, often in hospitals, increases healthcare costs as well as the economic burden on families and societies.
Antibiotic resistance is putting the achievements of modern medicine at risk.
Without urgent action, we are heading for a post-antibiotic era in which common infections and minor injuries can once again kill.