The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared 14 to 20 November 2016 as World Antibiotic Awareness Week.
The campaign aims to increase awareness of global antibiotic resistance and to encourage best practices among the general public, health workers, policy-makers and the agriculture sector to avoid the further emergence and spread of antibiotic resistance.
Earlier this year, the United Nations General Assembly had discussed rising antimicrobial resistance, signifying the seriousness of the situation.
The theme for the World Antibiotic Awareness Week is ‘Antibiotics: Handle with care‘.
Antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to global health today. It poses a major challenge to health, food security, & development. It can affect anyone, of any age, in any country.
All around the world, bacteria are becoming resistant to the antibiotics used to treat the infections they cause, resulting in longer illnesses & more deaths. At the same time, not enough new antibiotics are being developed to replace older & increasingly ineffective ones.
Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria change in response to the use of antibiotics. While this happens naturally, the over-use & misuse of antibiotics has accelerated the process, leading to record high levels of antibiotic resistance.
The current global antibiotic resistance crisis is the result of many factors:
- over-prescribing & dispensing of antibiotics
- misuse of antibiotics by patients
- over-use & misuse of antibiotics in livestock, fish farming & on plants
- lack of new antibiotics being developed
- poor infection control in hospitals, clinics & farms
- lack of toilets & proper sewage disposal
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.
Without effective antibiotics, a growing list of infections is becoming harder to treat.
Access to effective antibiotics is also essential to protect animal health, as well as to improve animal welfare, treat sick animals, food security & food safety.
Antibiotics are a precious resource that cannot be taken for granted.
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 & environment are clean & safe for use at the right times
- Keep your patients’ vaccinations up to date
- Talk to your patients about antibiotic resistance & dangers of unnecessary use
- Only prescribe & dispense antibiotics when they are truly needed
- Prescribe & dispense antibiotics according to current guidelines Dentists:
- Always follow infection prevention & control protocols
- Only prescribe antibiotics when they are needed, & according to current guidelines
- When prescribing antibiotics, talk to patients about how to take them correctly, antibiotic resistance & the dangers of misuse
- Ask your patient about their previous & present antibiotic use
- Talk to patients about preventing infections (e.g. good oral hygiene)
- Always follow infection prevention & control protocols
- Use diagnostics to make informed treatment decisions (when possible)
- Only prescribe & dispense antibiotics when they are needed, according to current guidelines
- Talk to patients about how to take antibiotics correctly, antibiotic resistance & the dangers of misuse Talk to patients about preventing infections (e.g. vaccination, hand washing, safer sex, covering nose & mouth when sneezing)
- Only dispense antibiotics when they are needed, according to current guidelines (e.g. check the patient has a valid prescription, for the right drug/dose/duration)
- When patients are seeking treatment for cold or flu, explain that antibiotics are not needed
- Talk to patients about how to take antibiotics correctly, antibiotic resistance & the dangers of misuse
- Remind patients to contact their health professional if symptoms persist or they experience side effects
- Talk to patients about preventing infections (e.g. vaccination, hand washing, safer sex, covering nose & mouth when sneezing)
How farmers & food producers can help:
- Only give antibiotics to animals—including food-producing & companion animals — to control or treat infectious diseases & under veterinary supervision
- Phase out the use of antibiotics for grow promotion & only use antibiotics to prevent disease under veterinary authority for specific circumstances & for a limited time
- Vaccinate animals to reduce the need for antibiotics & use alternatives to antibiotic available
- Promote & apply good practices at all steps of production & processing of foods from animal & plant sources
- Improve biosecurity on farms & prevent infections through improved hygiene & animal welfare
Link to the campaign page:
Link to the news release:
Link to WHO’s page on Antimicrobial Resistance:
Link to World Antibiotic Awareness Week 2016 campaign toolkit (English) [PDF]:
Link to WHO’s World Antibiotic Awareness Week posters (English) [PDF]:
Link to WHO fact sheet on Antibiotic resistance (updated October 2016):
Link to WHO quiz on antibiotic resistance (English) [online]:
Link to WHO’s multi-country public awareness survey on antibiotic resistance (English) [PDF]:
Link to WHO videos on antibiotic resistance:
Link to WHO infographics on antibiotic resistance:
Link to WHO’s Global Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance (English) [PDF]:
Link to WHO’s Worldwide country situation analysis: response to antimicrobial resistance (English) [PDF]:
Link to WHO page containing resources on Surveillance of Antimicrobial Use:
Link to Commentary on Antibiotic resistance by a WHO Director (English):