As the Chief Medical Officer and experts around the world warn of a “post-antibiotic apocalypse” and “the end of modern medicine”, Public Health England launches a drive in Cumbria to help ‘Keep Antibiotics Working’. The campaign warns people that taking antibiotics when they are not needed puts them at risk of a more severe or longer infection, and urges people to take their doctor’s advice on antibiotics.
Public Health England’s ESPAUR report, published in October, reveals that as antibiotic resistance grows, the options for treatment decrease. Worryingly, four in 10 patients with an E.coli bloodstream infection in England cannot be treated with the most commonly used antibiotic in hospitals.
Antibiotics are essential to treat serious bacterial infections, such as meningitis, pneumonia and sepsis, but they are frequently being used to treat illnesses and viral infections. Antibiotics don’t work for viral infections such as colds and flu, and most coughs and sore throats. Many mild bacterial infections also get better on their own without using antibiotics.
Taking antibiotics encourages harmful bacteria that live inside you to become resistant. That means that antibiotics may not work when you really need them. It is estimated that at least 5,000 deaths are caused every year in England because antibiotics no longer work for some infections and this figure is set to rise with experts predicting that in just over 30 years antibiotic resistance will kill more people than cancer and diabetes combined.
Colin Cox, Cumbria County Council’s Director of Public Health, said: “Antibiotic resistance is not a distant threat, but is in fact one of the most dangerous crises facing us today. Taking antibiotics when you don’t need them puts you and your family at risk of developing infections which in turn cannot be easily treated with antibiotics.
“Without urgent action from all of us, common infections, minor injuries and routine operations will become much riskier. PHE’s ‘Keep Antibiotics Working’ campaign helps to explain the risks of antibiotic resistance to the public.
“It is important for people to understand that if they are feeling under the weather and see their GP or a nurse, antibiotics may not be prescribed if they are not effective for their condition, but they should expect to have a full discussion about how to manage their symptoms.”
The ‘Keep Antibiotics Working’ campaign urges residents in Cumbria to always trust their doctor, nurse or pharmacist’s advice as to when they need antibiotics and if they are prescribed, take antibiotics as directed and never save them for later use or share them with others. The campaign also provides effective self-care advice to help individuals and their families feel better if they are not prescribed antibiotics.
Professor Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer, comments: “Without effective antibiotics, minor infections could become deadly and many medical advances could be at risk; surgery, chemotherapy and caesareans could become simply too dangerous. But reducing inappropriate use of antibiotics can help us stay ahead of superbugs. The public has a critical role to play and can help by taking collective action. I welcome the launch of the ‘Keep Antibiotics Working’ campaign, and remember that antibiotics are not always needed so always take your doctor’s advice.”
For further information on antibiotics, their uses and the risk of resistance, please search ‘NHS Antibiotics’ online or go to www.nhs.uk/conditions/antibiotics/.