From a superbug jitterbug and school lessons to ward rounds and GP surgery visits, activities are taking place across Leeds to mark World Antibiotics Awareness Week (18-24 November).
The week aims to increase awareness of antibiotic resistance as a global problem, and to promote best practice among the general public, health workers and policy-makers to avoid the further emergence and spread of antibiotic resistance.
Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections. However, because bacteria can adapt and find ways to survive the effects of an antibiotic, the medicines are losing their effectiveness at an increasing rate.
According to the World Health Organisation, antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is one of the biggest threats to global health – infections are becoming harder to treat and antibiotic resistance is putting people at greater risk if they need chemotherapy or surgery.
To help tackle this problem locally, healthcare professionals across the city are supporting Seriously Resistant (www.seriouslyresistant.com), a campaign that aims to raise awareness of antibiotic resistance and encourage Leeds residents to get involved by pledging to keep antibiotics working.
Dr Gaye Sheerman-Chase, Principal Medical Adviser for Medicines Optimisation at NHS Leeds Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “It’s nearly 100 years since the first antibiotic, penicillin, was discovered. Since then we have seen a number of new antibiotics developed to fight infections or bugs that have become resistant to previously developed treatments. However it is becoming increasingly difficult to respond quickly enough to drug-resistant bugs. So we need to act now.
“One thing we can all do is not take antibiotics unless they’re absolutely necessary. For example, colds, flu and most coughs are viral infections, and antibiotics can’t treat those. All you need is plenty of rest and a visit to your local pharmacy for remedies which you can buy over the counter.
“Antibiotics should only be used when we really need them. Listen to your GP, pharmacist or nurse’s advice and only take antibiotics when necessary. If you are given antibiotics, it’s important that you finish the full course, not save them for future use and never share them with others.”
Dr Ian Cameron, Director of Public Health at Leeds City Council, said: “We share an ambition for Leeds to be the UK city that makes the biggest impact on antibiotic resistance. “We’re working with healthcare professionals across the city so that we only prescribe antibiotics when it is necessary to do so but we also need the support of all who live and work here to achieve our goal.
“There are lots of ways that people can do this – for example, not asking for antibiotics for viral illnesses and only using them when prescribed by a certified health professional. Another important factor is preventing infections in the first place by regularly washing hands, preparing food hygienically, avoiding close contact with sick people, practising safer sex, and keeping vaccinations up to date.
“I’d also urge everyone to visit the Seriously website – www.seriouslyresistant.com – to find out what you, your family and friends can do to help tackle antibiotic resistance and to pledge to help keep antibiotics working.”