Antibiotic Awareness Week

This week (17-23 November) is Antibiotic Awareness Week – a worldwide initiative to promote greater understanding of antibiotic resistance and the responsible use of antibiotics.

Page last updated: 17 November 2014

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17 November 2014

This week (17-23 November) is Antibiotic Awareness Week – a worldwide initiative to promote greater understanding of antibiotic resistance and the responsible use of antibiotics.

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is happening around the world, mainly because of the inappropriate and overuse of antibiotics. Bacteria change, or mutate, to protect themselves from an antibiotic. These changes mean antibiotics that previously would have killed the bacteria, or stopped them from multiplying, no longer work.

With increasing AMR, standard medical treatments become ineffective and infections persist. Health care professionals are left with limited or, in some instances, no available treatment options.

“All Australians can play their part during Antibiotic Awareness Week,” the Minister for Health, Peter Dutton said. “Think about what you can do to reduce the spread of antibiotic resistance.

“You can prevent antibiotic resistance by understanding that antibiotics only work against bacterial infections and will not have any effect on viral infections such as colds and flu.

“Advise your doctor that you only want antibiotics if they are really necessary. Take your antibiotics only as prescribed by your doctor and for the correct duration. Wash your hands to avoid infections and prevent them from spreading.

“Using antibiotics when you don’t need them may mean that they won’t work for you when you really need them in the future.”

Minister Dutton said the Australian Government had committed to the development of Australia’s first national AMR strategy. This work is being led by the Australian Antimicrobial Resistance Prevention and Containment Steering Group, which is jointly chaired by the Secretaries of the Australian Government Departments of Health and Agriculture, and includes the Chief Medical Officer and Chief Veterinary Officer.

“AMR is an urgent global health priority, with the World Health Organization describing it as a looming crisis in which common and treatable infections are becoming life threatening,” Mr Dutton said. “The prevalence of AMR is increasing both in Australia and internationally. Resistance is increasing at a pace that exceeds the pharmaceutical industry’s capacity to develop new antimicrobial drugs.

“While AMR is recognised as a significant global health issue, the drivers of resistance, and its implications, reach far beyond the health sector. AMR presents a serious challenge across all sectors, including human health, animal health, agriculture and food.”

As such, the national AMR strategy will be underpinned by a ‘One Health’ approach, which provides a coordinated, collaborative, multidisciplinary and cross-sectoral approach to develop health strategies for people, animals and the environment. The strategy will be finalised in early 2015.

For more information, please contact the Minister's Office on 02 6277 7220

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