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Health Minister urges public to ‘keep antibiotics working’

This year’s annual Antimicrobial Awareness Week is taking place 18-24 November 2020.

Health Minister Robin Swann commented: “The Covid 19 pandemic has brought into sharp focus the value we place on modern medicine, there is no doubt that antibiotics are an essential tool in battling infection. However we must remember that antibiotics only work for certain sorts of infection and they don’t kill viruses. We have become too reliant on them and in doing so now run the risk of the increase in drug resistant superbugs.

“Each one of us can play our part in making sure that when we need antibiotics they will work. Northern Ireland has one of the highest rates of antibiotic prescribing in the UK and the more we use antibiotics, the higher the risk that resistance will develop and they will stop working to treat infections when we really need them. It is very important that we only take antibiotics when they are necessary and when prescribed to us by our doctor.”

The Changing the Culture ‘One Health’ five year action plan launched last year and encourages the responsible use of antimicrobials, particularly antibiotics in human medicine, in veterinary medicine, in food producing animals and in pets. The spread of antimicrobial resistance in the environment is also of increasing concern.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride said: “World Antimicrobial Awareness Week takes place every year but I would urge everyone to think of how they use antibiotics every day and how often, if we continue in overusing antibiotics then by the year 2050 we can expect about 10 million deaths per year, worldwide, from drug-resistant infections.

“We have all become used to frequent hand washing this year and this still remains the safest way to fight all types of infections, reducing the need for antibiotics.”

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